40 Movies For 40 Years: 1995

I was 17 when I graduated from high school. I was a little younger than most of the other kids in my class because my birthday was in the summer. Like most kids that age I didn’t really have an idea of who I was. Up until that point in life you’re usually told who you are. You’re a student. You’re a son. Clean your room. Study chapter 12. Get a job.

But one thing that I knew about myself was that I loved film, and the year that I graduated there were a ton of them to pick from. Maybe not enough to completely erase the fear that a teenage boy had of facing the real world but still enough to keep him occupied while he dealt with it.

As I look back at 1995 and the films that we got that year I realize that I have a very difficult decision. How do you decide which of these movies is your favorite. Bruce Willis came out with the last good Die Hard movie when Die Hard With A Vengence came out. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard changed the way movies were made with Apollo 13. Pierce Brosnan took over the 007 crown with GoldenEye. And Val Kilmer put on the cape and cowl with Batman Forever.

I tried breaking this down because I was finding it nearly impossible to figure out what film needed to come out on top.

Which movie was I looking forward to the most? That was easy…it was Batman Forever. I had been in love with the first two Batman movies for 6 years. The caped crusader had become a staple of my early teenage years. I had seen those two flicks dozens of times and had really dug into the comics after they came out. I knew a lot about the characters and the fact that we were finally going to see Robin really excited me. I was also a big Jim Carrey fan at the time so the idea of seeing him take on the role of The Riddler was blowing my mind. It turned out to be one of those movies that was not as good as I expected it to be but I didn’t want to admit it. I still don’t think it’s terrible…I save that designation for Batman and Robin. But it was definitely not at the top of the stack.

Which movie did I enjoy the most in the theater? That was Die Hard With A Vengence. Die Hard made this list several installments back and by the time this movie came out I had seen the first two several times. While this one still doesn’t live up to the original I still loved it. They changed things up. First of all they gave Bruce a partner with Samuel L. Jackson. Second they didn’t contain him in a building or an airport. He had the whole city to protect.

But I think that my favorite movie of the year was not one that I actually saw that year at all. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t see it until several years later when I had kids that I needed to entertain. It was Toy Story.

The story of what happens with your toys when you aren’t around isn’t new. There were cartoons along those lines when I was growing up in the 80s. What made this one catch the eyes of modern kids was the graphics. This was the first full length film collaboration between Disney and Pixar. The animation for this film was phenomenal, and set a precedent that Pixar has consistently topped with each new film. These movies are beautiful.

But Toy Story was more than just a pretty movie…It had heart. We’re introduced to Woody, a toy cowboy who is the leader of all the toys in Andy’s bedroom voiced by Tom Hanks. He keeps things organized and makes sure that no one gets lost. He is Andy’s favorite toy and he’s been around for years. But his existence is put in jeopardy when Andy gets a cool new Buzz Lightyear toy (Tim Allen) for his birthday.

The pieces are put in place for a great adventure but also a series of valuable lessons. What does it mean  to be yourself? Are you defined by how important you are to another person? Woody became a character that over the next few years and two more installments in the series showed that there was one thing that was more important to him than his own safety and stature…his friends. He would never hurt them. He would never leave them behind. And the way we see Woody and Buzz go from being enemies to best friends was magical.

I love this movie. And, thanks to my children I’ve seen it about 100 times as well as both of its sequels. Toy Story 4 will be coming in the next couple of years and I’m sure I’ll be in the theater watching it with my grandchild.

I can’t wait to share Toy Story with that kid.

On Writing

Image result for fat boy paperI remember the day that I knew I wanted to be a writer.
When I was a kid I had no problem coming up with stories. My imagination was brilliant. I would sit and tell my mother stories off of the top of my head. Most of the time it was all in fun to make her laugh. Sometimes it was to explain a broken picture frame or a mess in my room and the results were not as hilarious.
Somewhere out there is a picture of me drawing stick figures in a notebook. Upon first glance it just looks like a kid drawing pictures. But what I’m actually doing is writing a story. It just happened to be taken before I started school so I didn’t know how to write much more than my name at the time.
One day in the second grade I was given an assignment that changed my life…or at least I thought it had at the time. It actually started early one morning when I got to school. I was out of paper for my notebook. I guess I had drawn a few too many pictures. I went into the school store to buy some more.
The school store was a racket that most public schools had going in the 80s and probably still do. If you were out of some supply that you needed for class then you could go and pick one up. They claimed it was because they didn’t want you to have to go to class without a pencil or an eraser. And, since no kid has ever remembered everything then they were making bank every single day.
I went into the school store that day and bought a packet of loose leaf paper. It would have been a quarter at the store. They cut me a deal and charged me fifty cents. As I was leaving the room I looked at the image on the front of the pack. There was a drawing of a little boy wearing a striped shirt and a beanie holding a little flag. Below him were the words “Fat Boy”. I know now that it was the name brand of the paper company but at the time it was just a funny little picture that made seven-year-old me giggle.
My second grade teacher was Miss Campbell. I have a few stories about her…most of them are not good. But on this day I’ll tell a story where she was one of the good guys. She gave us an assignment that day that she called “creative writing”. The instructions were simple. Write a story and then one by one we were going to stand in front of the class and read it to the class.
As I said, I was no stranger to coming up with stories but up until then I had not been asked to write one down. I reached into my backpack to get some paper and the little fat boy caught my eye again. I decided to tell his story.
So I wrote a tale that I called “The Adventures of Fat Boy”. I don’t remember exactly what Fat Boy’s adventures were. It had something to do with a child with an eating disorder that kept eating and became bigger and bigger. I think that at one point in the story he weighed somewhere in the millions and there was probably a Godzilla-esque scene where he was trampling the city. This was obviously before the days that my own eating disorder began and I still thought things like that were funny.
I don’t know how long the story was. If I had to guess I’d say it was two or three pages…but then my handwriting was so large back then that I may have only had a couple of paragraphs of content.
When Miss Campbell finally called my name and I took my place at the front of the class my heart was lodged in my throat. If you’ve read any of my past stories then you’ll know that I dealt with a lot of bullying when I was young. For someone that had to go through that on a daily basis to get in front of a group of their peers to speak was devastating. I knew what was going to happen. They were going to make fun of me. But, I had to do it. That was the rule. So, I shakily held my sheets of paper in front of me and started to read my story.
A few chuckles…I kept reading.
A giggle here and there…my face reddened but I kept reading.
Laughter…all out laughter…and I realized that they weren’t laughing AT me. They were laughing because they thought my story was funny. The more I realized that the more animated I got and the funnier the story became.
It was the first time that my storytelling had gotten an actual reaction out of people. When I got home that evening I wrote another story about Fat Boy. I probably wrote two or three altogether, with each one his circumstances got a little more spectacular.
The story doesn’t end like some kind of a movie. I didn’t suddenly become the most popular kid in school because I wrote a funny story. The girls didn’t line up to sit with me at lunch. I didn’t even become Miss Campbell’s favorite student.
That was the whole story. I wrote something funny that some kids laughed at.
But it planted a seed inside me…a seed that has been growing roots for the past 33 years. The seed hasn’t become a plant.
At least not yet.
But there is still some time.

More Than A Tree...

They were still kids themselves when they got married. They had a son to take care of and they had just found out that she was going to be having another in a few months. Both of them spent their days working jobs that they didn’t really like and coming home to a trailer that was too small for their growing family. They made meager meals, did some cleaning, and tried to rest up for the next day while spending a little time together.
Money was tight.
That’s a bit of an understatement. There were times when the money would come in on Friday and by Sunday it was all but gone. There was just barely enough to buy food and keep the bills paid and sometimes there wasn’t even enough for that. Christmas was coming fast and they had no idea how they were going to pay for it.
But they did. They always got through it. Year after year they worked as hard as they could and their children never had to do without on the big day. There were always plenty of presents for them under the tree and lots of food to be had as well.
And there was always a Christmas tree.
That first year the tree was real. They went to a local hardware store and bought the one that they could afford. It wasn’t very big. It had to be kind of short to fit in their living room and the branches weren’t very full. But it was what they could get so they strapped it to the roof of the car and carried it home.
On the way they stopped at the dollar store to pick up some decorations. It was their first Christmas as a family and the first time that either of them was trying to do things on their own. The ornaments that had been hanging on the trees of their childhood were on their parents’ trees. For them there was nothing so they had to start from scratch. That meant the dollar store. They bought a couple of boxes of white lights…the kind that don’t blink because they were cheaper. They got two boxes of colored balls and a few boxes of assorted shapes like angels, reindeer, Santa, and a star. They also bought some ornaments that almost look like sugar cookies cut into the shape of a ribbon. She had the idea to buy some fake flowers to spruce things up.
They took it home and assembled it. Their first Christmas tree was a scraggly one with cheap lights and ornaments. But when their son looked at it in awe they knew that it was worth it.
After that year they started a tradition. Every year they would buy an ornament for their kids to signify some accomplishment from that year. One year it was a Girl Scout symbol. Another year it was a fishing pole. This has gone on even to this day. They also were gifted some of the ornaments that hung on the tree when they were children. There were ceramic Santas with his name on them that his mother had made when he was young and angels that hung on his Grandmother’s tree when she was alive. There were handmade ornaments that she had made in school when she was only six years old.
So, the decorations grew. The tree changed every year. That was the last time that they had a real one but the artificial ones got changed out ever few years.
This year they are not celebrating Christmas in that tiny trailer. They are celebrating in a house. It isn’t their house yet but tiny steps are being taken. The tree is brand new…the product of Black Friday shopping. It has the lights built in and they change color and blink and all of that stuff. His grandmother’s angels can be seen right up front. The ornaments his kids made in school are given a prominent placement. The things that his wife made with her own hands are spaced throughout. And there in the mix are a few fake flowers and some ornaments made to look like sugar cookies in the shape of ribbons.
Their first Christmas is honored every single year. This year it seems a little more special. In a way this feels like their first Christmas. After the storm that they’ve weathered over the past couple of years it almost feels like a new starting point for them. A lot has happened lately. A lot will happen still. Next Christmas they’ll be celebrating with a brand new grandchild.
The tree looks like it has an identity problem. It’s covered in decorations that range from Christian to secular to fancy to homemade. But it is made up of much more than just a pile of plastic and tinsel. It is covered in memories, promises, and hopes.
It's more than just a tree...it's the story of their family.

40 Movies For 40 Years: 1992

This series is not about the best movies ever made. It’s not a list of the movies that I think have done the most for the craft of movie making. It’s not about the ones that speak to my soul or the ones that make the earth a better place to be. It’s simply about listing the movies that are my favorites from any particular year. A few things go into that decision. Sometimes its nostalgia and I’ll admit that. There are some movies that I saw when they first came out and the illicit a response from me and there is no denying that. The other thing that I think about is how a movie has grown on me over time. I had no interest in JFK when it was first released, but now as an adult I can appreciate a few things about it.

It is with that preamble explanation that I announce my favorite movie from 1992…Wayne’s World.

I just heard a lot of eyes roll.

I’m as much of a comedy nerd as I am a movie geek. I love comedies of all kinds. And one of the things that most fans of comedy have in common is that we love Saturday Night Live. It’s had its ups and downs as far as quality, but some of the all time greatest performers got their start right there on that stage. Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy…the list goes on and on.

When I was a teenager I used to watch SNL every single week. This was in the early nineties when people like Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Chris Farley were first starting to make a name for themselves. Actors on that show really hoped to create a character that the audience loved so that producers would insist on putting them on several times a year. That was why we got characters like the Church Lady and Stuart Smalley. They just resonated with enough of the audience that they kept writing sketches for them.

That’s what happened with Wayne’s World. That was a sketch that Mike Myers came up with about a young slacker named Wayne Campbell that cares more about heavy metal than getting a job. He and his buddy, Garth, do a public access TV show. Talk show sketches are the easiest for SNL to do since it is essentially just talking to the audience and being funny.

Well, this sketch got a rise out of my generation. We loved Wayne and Garth and the catchphrases started flying. “Shwing!” “Sheyah, Right!” “Excellent!” So, SNL did something that I don’t think they had done since The Blues Brothers. They moved that 5 minute skit to the big screen.

At the time I thought it was a fantastic idea. Looking back on it now I can see how weird of a decision that was. I mean, it works great for a few minutes on TV, but how are you going to make this concept work in a movie. You have to take these characters out of a talk show format and make them have some kind of adventure, changing the dynamic completely. It’s a risky move. And we now know that it is not a move that always works. Because even though this movie was a massive hit, they also made movies like The Ladies Man, Stuart Saves His Family, and It’s Pat that didn’t work out so well.

One cold February night my dad took my brother and I to see this movie on opening night. It was one of the rare occasions that we all actually wanted to see the same thing. I was just getting to an age where going to the movies was not as special of an occasion as it was when I was smaller. We were doing it more often because…what else are you going to take your teenagers to do in small town America?

When the movie started I realized that this was going to be a lot more than just a 90 minute version of an SNL skit. These characters had been fleshed out. This was a real movie and 14-year-old me absolutely loved every minute of it. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey did a great job of changing everything about their characters without changing one single thing. I really felt like I was watching the same two guys from the sketch but with so much more detail. This was Wayne’s basement but it wasn’t Wayne’s basement.

And I also found out that night that I was in love with Tia Carrere.

1992 had so many movies that were really good. Aladdin is in my list of favorite animated films. I loved Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, A Few Good Men, Batman Returns…are you kidding me? It was a fantastic year to be a movie fan. But when I look back on those titles and I wonder which of them gives me the warm and fuzzies…which one I quote the most…which one I had the most fun watching the first time around…It has to be Wayne’s World.

I’m not worthy.

Family Deceptions

The men in my family are a bunch of liars.

This is more specifically on my dad’s side of the family. And “liar” may be too harsh of a word because we’re not deceitful people. We just like to make up stories and try to get you to believe them for as long as possible. It’s a way to pass the time when you live the small town life. We always come clean eventually, usually right before our victim is ready to make a phone call to verify some outrageous claim that we’ve made.

Most often the object of our trickery is our children and the children of our extended family. We would take the stories that most people tell and embellish them enough to make them truly epic. In our world Santa doesn’t just show up and leave presents…he has to slay a dragon in the yard that was there to ruin Christmas and the evidence are the smoldering embers outside which is normally a pile of leaves.

One epic example of this was the story that my grandfather used to tell all of us about how turkeys are such stupid animals that when rain hits them on the head they look up to see what it is and they end up drowning. Now, upon close reflection of this story it just doesn’t…ahem…hold water. If that tale were true then there would be no need for turkey hunting. You’d just wait until after a good rain and then go and collect the dead turkeys that are in plentiful supply. But, PawPaw Wray said it so it must have been the truth. I have to admit that I didn’t really put two and two together until my adulthood when I told that story to my kids and my wife started laughing at me. She even went to my family to share the laugh and they looked at her strangely because they all believed it, too.

I’m guilty of making up a story or two in order to trick my children and entertain myself. My daughter is the one that fell for it the most. She believed for years that I was Batman and that my Bat cave was under our house. When we saw contrails in the sky I would explain that it was Superman flying through the air to go save someone’s life. One of my favorites would be when we were in the car and the sun was shining in her face. When we would make a turn I would say “Here, baby…let Daddy move that sun for you”. Then I would motion my arm as I turned the car and magically move the sun so that it wasn’t in her eyes anymore. That one really amazed her.

But one story stands out. She was probably in kindergarten. I drove to the elementary school to pick up her and her older brother. At this point in life we were having some money issues and the air conditioning in the car was not working. I had all the windows rolled down since it was early September which is basically still the middle of summer here in Alabama. It was hot!

The kids climbed into the car and immediately started complaining about the heat. I diffused the situation my telling them that we were going to stop at the grocery store and get a gallon of ice cream to eat after dinner that night. So we did and once we got back into the card I had an idea. My son was next to me in the front and Gracie was behind him. I handed her the grocery bag that held the ice cream.

“Gracie, the air isn’t working so the ice cream is going to melt if you don’t keep it cold,” I said.

She looked at me with those enormous green eyes of hers questioningly. “How do I keep it cold, Daddy?”

“You have to blow on it, baby,” I replied. “You can’t stop. You have to blow into the bag all the way home.”
So she started blowing. And she was blowing hard, like she was blowing out her birthday candles over and over and over. We only lived about ten minutes away from the store so this wasn’t overly cruel. But my heart filled with laughter every time I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw her blowing like she was putting out a fire.

“You’re doing good, Gracie!” I’d yell. “Keep blowing!”

And she did. Her face got red and she rolled her eyes from exhaustion a few times, but she did.

My son was beside himself in an effort to keep his laughter contained. I would reach over and nudge him and he would almost lose it. He pulled down the visor in front of him with a vanity mirror so that he could see the spectacle happening behind him. She caught a glimpse of him laughing at one point and stopped what she was doing.

“What are you laughing at, Austin?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he said. “I was just looking in the mirror.”

“You’re laughing at yourself?” she asked a little more skeptically.

He nodded. “Yeah,” he said.

She shook her head. “You’re so stupid.”

And then she continued blowing.

There is a corner of Purgatory set aside for the Wray men to atone for their crimes before they can move on to Heaven. I’ve already got my seat picked out.

Grandmother's Dressing

My grandmother was an interesting woman, to say the least.

She had a style that could only be described as…”Faye”. That was her name and her style was all her own. She loved to wear colorful clothes. Going back and looking at the pictures now I’d say that a lot of the things that she wore didn’t always match. But she liked it and she was the kind of woman that you didn’t dare speak against lest you wanted to spend the next thirty minutes being told why you’d better get your head right.

But there was never any reason to say anything. She dressed well. She had a pair of red heels in her closet. She always said that every woman should have a pair of red heels, which is a piece of advice that my mother never followed since there wasn’t a red heel anywhere in our house…but that’s beside the point.

She also used to say that a lady should always put on some lipstick before her husband comes home from work. She said it was important to look your best after he’s been working all day to support the family. Those kinds of sentiments aren’t widely accepted these days. That’s mainly because women work just as much as men. But it was never meant to be defeating. It was how she felt and that was okay.

As we near Thanksgiving I’m reminded of my Grandmother Faye as I usually am at this time of year. Various holidays across the calendars get associated with different places, smells, and sounds. When I think of Thanksgiving I still can’t help but think about all the Thanksgivings that we spent at her house.

We’d get there pretty early since my mom was doing what she could to help get the big meal on the table. It didn’t matter how early we arrived, though. Grandmother was in the kitchen at daybreak. By 9 am the house was already filling with the smells of food cooking.

And cooking was something that she excelled at. We had at least 20 people coming to dinner so of course she cooked enough to feed a thousand. She didn’t do the turkey. That was a job usually given to my uncle Gene. But she made all the other stuff. Potato salad, cranberry sauce, bread, pies, pies, pies…

And dressing.

Dressing was her specialty. She would use a roasting pan the size of a bathtub and whip up the heaviest, thickest cornbread dressing that you’d ever seen. That stuff was amazing and hearty enough to fill us up all on its own. There was only one problem…

Grandmother put raisins in her dressing.

It’s like eating a minefield. Every bite had to be carefully dissected so that you didn’t accidentally bite into a hot, mushy raisin and ruin the flavor. We asked her why she put the raisins in it. She didn’t have an answer other than that was the way she liked it. That was enough.

After we complained long enough she finally started putting a divider in the roasting pan and made half of it with raisins and the other half the way normal people ate it. So, when Thanksgiving dinner was over there would be a pan that was almost exactly half full of dressing. Of course, you put some in a bowl and took it home with you and over the next week you braved the mine field again.

After all, it was Grandmother’s dressing. It was worth it. 

40 Movies For 40 Years: 1991

The further I go into the project the harder it becomes to pick a favorite out of any particular year. 1991 is no exception. By the age of 14 I was a full-fledged film fan. I wouldn’t say that I was a film “buff” yet since I had not gotten around to appreciating classic films. That wouldn’t come for a few more years. But there was no question that I loved watching movies. And at the age of 14 I was not quite old enough to be working and getting out of the house but old enough that I didn’t need a babysitter. So, during the summer I would stay at home all day either by myself or with my brother. We would go to the video store every night and rent two or three movies to watch the next day.

It was that year that I saw movies like JFK and I learned that not all of the movies have spaceships and cartoon characters. I saw Beauty and the Beast which taught me that some of them still do. And on a bus ride back from a school trip to Tennessee one of my teachers made the very poor decision to let a bunch of 12 year olds watch Silence of the Lambs.

But this blog is all about reflection. So I’m looking back at that year and deciding which movie has become my favorite. Which one brought me the most joy later in life? Which one is the most quotable? Which one has the most rewatchability?

No question. Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

I’ve said before that I remember Terminator being on in my house growing up. I’m sure that my dad watched it on Showtime or HBO when it aired. But I don’t remember watching the original film until it came on a regular TV station a few years after its original release. Of course all of the swearing had been cut out and some of the violence was gone as well. But I remember finding the concept of going into the past to save the future very interesting.  I was watching an episode of Siskel and Ebert—because I thought that’s what you did when you liked movies—and they showed a clip from the new Terminator movie. I was not a stranger to sequels. I knew what they were but I had not yet realized how prominent they were as a way for a studio to make a buck. I thought that a movie had to be really, really good to get a sequel. Spoiler alert—they don’t. They just have to make a profit.

But I didn’t get to see it right away. My parents didn’t go to the movies very often. It was a thing that you did on really special occasions a few times a year growing up. We went a little more often when I was a teenager but it was still relegated to the cheap theater where seats were $1.50 and nothing over a PG-13 rating was allowed. Terminator 2’s hard R was a no-go.

I did see it eventually. Probably not too long after its release. We did have Showtime and my mom was gone a lot, so it happened. And when it did it was amazing!

Terminator 2 was a return to the franchise for Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger and introduced Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick. This time, Arnold is the good guy. He’s still a Terminator, but he was reprogrammed by John Conner in the future because Skynet is sending a newer model back to present day to kill him when he was a child. Sarah Conner is locked up in an insane asylum and young John is a ward of the state.

When Robert Patrick oozes on the scene we start to see some special effects that we had never witnessed before. James Cameron stepped up his game with this movie and actually created technology to complete his film that was used for years after. To say that this movie revolutionized movie making is putting it mildly. I would say that modern special effects owe everything that they are to this movie. Because if what the MCU can do now is considered running then what Cameron did was equal to learning to walk. Everything before that was a steady crawl.

The performances are good. This movie makes me wonder why Linda Hamilton never became a mega star. I guess she was before her time. Because in the days of Wonder Woman and Black Widow I think Sarah Conner fits right in. I feel bad for Edward Furlong because this is basically the highlight of his career. He never reached the height that was going for and has suffered a great deal.

Arnold…well it’s his movie. He probably has three pages of dialog the entire movie but he’s still great. He’s the king of action, after all. He starred in two more Terminator movies (3 and Genysis)  after that and was kind of (sort of) in Salvation as well. But they when He, Hamilton, Furlong, Patrick, and Cameron all got together they made magic happen and there has never been a Terminator film that matched the second one. That’s what makes it my top pick for 1991.

40 Movies For 40 Years: 1990

Admitting failure is not an easy thing to do, but it is something that I have to do today. I failed to complete this project by the date that I promised. I know that the deadline was something that I imposed on myself, but I promised that it would be met and it wasn’t. So, I’m sorry.

That being said, I still want to complete my list of my favorite movies from the last 40 years. I’m up to 1990 so let’s start right there.

1990 was a big year for me since it was the year that I officially became a teenager.  I have some pretty vivid memories from that time. I was just beginning my journey into nerdom. I was falling in love with movies. I went to the theater as often as I could, which was not as often as I would have liked since I still depended on my parents for transportation and our closest theater was a 30 minute drive away. Oh, and I didn’t have a job. I was a frequent customer to the local video store. Perusing the shelves of films was one of my favorite ways to pass time.

But I have some pretty specific memories of films that I saw that year. I know that I went with my mom and my cousin to see Dick Tracy on my birthday that year. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was also a huge deal for me. I saw it twice and spent my meager allowance on the novelization and the comic book adaptation.

But when I look back on that year there is one movie that has embedded so many images into my mind and steered the course of my taste in films since that stands out above all the others…

Total Recall.

This was a Schwarzenegger vehicle and probably the first movie of his that I ever actually sat down to watch. I remember Terminator being on in the background a few times as I grew up but being a kid it didn’t really appeal to me. I didn’t go see Total Recall in the theater. Of course my parents weren’t going to take a 13 year old kid to see a R-rated film. But a few months after its release it started airing on one of the premium movie channels that we had.

I remember that it was a perfect storm one evening. My mom was at work. She worked in a hospital and she had been assigned the 3pm-11-pm shift. My dad was getting ready to leave for his job as a firefighter so my brother and I were getting ready to spend the evening at home all alone. We’d been fed and I was popping some popcorn and flipping through the TV Guide to figure out what I was going to watch. I saw that Total Recall was about to come on. I had seen the commercials and I knew that I wanted to see it. Being the honest kid that I was I went to my dad as he was leaving and asked if it was okay if I watched it. He stood there and thought about it for a minute and then said, “Yeah, but don’t tell your mom.”


Now a little about the movie itself. Total Recall is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick called We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Of course it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. It was directed by Paul Verhoeven, the same guy that had brought us Robocop a few years before and would make Starship Troopers a little while later.  The concept grabbed me immediately. Arnold plays a regular guy that works as a construction worker and he has all of these dreams of being something bigger than he is. He sees and advertisement for a company called “Recall” that specialize in putting manufactured memories in your brain. The idea being that if you don’t have time to take a vacation then you can have the memories of a vacation put In your brain and its basically the same thing. He goes through with the procedure and things go a little sideways. He pretty much discovers that he is a spy and that he has a mission to complete on Mars.

I went back and watched this movie again a little more recently, about the time that the remake with Collin Farrell came out a few years ago. The special effects don’t really hold up and the story gets a little clunky toward the end. It suffers from a classic problem where a movie has a great story but it needs to wrap up so quickly for no other reason than it’s time to wrap it up. But, even today I can watch it and get lost in that world. Some of that is Verhoeven’s vision. He had a way of world building that gave us futuristic satire of our own society that made you think. He did it in Robocop as well. You see the things going on around the character and you think to yourself…”Yeah, I can see that happening”. But it is also a product of Philip K. Dick’s mind. He could tell such huge stories in just a few pages. And when it is handled by the right filmmaker it can deliver something truly amazing.

Total Recall may be considered to be a middle –of-the-road sci-fi flick in most critics’ eyes…but it is the one film from 1990 that left the biggest impression on me. 

A Word About Victims...

Facebook is a wonderful thing. There is probably no way to measure the hours of time I’ve wasted away on that site…whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is really up to interpretation. It’s definitely helped me relieve a lot of boredom. But it’s also become a nuisance for me in the fact that it is so readily available when I feel the need to lash out. If I get angry over something that I’ve heard or something that is in the news then I can go for the instant release of expelling my bile on the internet. I don’t always think of what comes next…people actually read it.

My lessons in this began last year. As many readers know, I lost my mother in April of 2016. Watching her pass away is the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to go through. I came out the other side of that experience pretty much broken. Her suffering was a hard thing to deal with and there were lasting effects with family and people surrounding the situation that last to this day. I was a pretty angry guy for a while and I wore my heart on my sleeve.

The year that followed was also pretty rough for me and also for my family. We lost a few more family members our life took a few jabs that left us a little bruised. I got into this mindset that I just didn’t care what people thought anymore. It didn’t really matter what anyone’s opinion of me was. I had a lot of anger built up and started to find outlets for it and one of those was Facebook. There was plenty of low hanging fruit to be picked since we were in the middle of the most polarizing election that I can ever remember.

So I went on Facebook a lot over the next few months and I ranted about Trump. I thought that I was being cathartic. I was actually ostracizing myself. I started to notice that the number of people who clicked “Like” when I posted a funny meme or something had reduced which told me a few of my friends had unfollowed me. Then I noticed a few of my friends disappearing from my page altogether. So…I stopped. Or at least I tried to. I made a few apologies and tried to get along without posting things on social media that could cause any more drama in my life.

Then this garbage in Hollywood with Weinstein and Spacey and the rest started. I had a lot to say, but I didn’t’ say it. It wasn’t until the story about Roy Moore broke the other day that I had enough and needed to spew. If you don’t know, Roy Moore is running for US Senate and over the past few days he’s been accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with minors in the past. It struck a chord with me just like the Spacey allegations did because I have a huge problem with people who prey on children. It will set me off on a rant almost every time. What detonated this bomb was the hundreds…HUNDREDS…of people that came out in support of Roy Moore and called these women liars that were politically motivated.

I have a personal belief that any child that comes forward and suggests that they have been sexually abused should be believed. I made a post to that effect…a very calm post. What I think Facebook fails to do that I’m hoping this blog post will is give the idea a little more space so that I can detail my thought a little.

I hit a pocket of resistance. It wasn’t argumentative but a couple of people disagreed with me on the basis that a person could be falsely accused and it would ruin their life. Yes, I agree with that. That can and does happen on occasion. But instead of posting anything more about the subject I opted to just take it down. It wasn’t worth unintentionally starting a battle over just because my words were misunderstood. Let me try to elaborate my point.

Why do I think that the child should always be believed? Because it takes a great deal of courage for a child to come forward and tell someone that they were abused. If we automatically go into a mode of protecting the abuser then it is a slap in the face to every child who goes through that trauma. If what the child says is true and we don’t do anything about it then, in my opinion, we create more victims. We give that abuser an opportunity to continue doing these things to other children. We also set a precedent that will encourage other predators to do the same since they see people getting away with it.

Do we believe every child even if they are falsely accusing someone? This is a tricky answer because basically I would say yes. And the reason for that is that there is usually no way to know for sure who is telling the truth. But if we go in to the situation not believing the child then it causes many more problems. The thing is that every one of these situations needs to be investigated fully. If the child is lying, then eventually it’s going to be found out. But if they’re telling the truth and we didn’t believe them then we’ve damaged that child for life and put other children in danger.

What if you were accused? That was a question I was asked yesterday. I personally don’t allow myself to be put in situations where it can be said. I love kids. But I’m not alone with other people’s kids at any time. I’m not friends with children or social media. But that’s beside the point. My argument stands. If a child comes forward then they should be told that they’re believed…even if I was the one being accused. I would work tirelessly to clear my name. And, of course, there would be those that would stop having anything to do with me after that. And that’s fine…it’s their choice.

I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t find value in their argument. I do. This situation is not two-sided. This is a dodecahedron. So, no one can really be said to be right or wrong. All I’m trying to do here is state my idea of what I believe is right.

If you’re tired of hearing about this, you might as well get comfortable. This topic isn’t going anywhere for a while. It’s been brewing under the surface for decades and is finally getting some steam. Some people are going to get justice. Some abusers are going to get their comeuppance. My hope is that some of the kids that have been the victims of unspeakable acts get the help that they need to move on with their lives. 

Why You Should Get A Flu Shot

This article originally appeared in last week's issue of The Leeds Tribune. I'm posting it here so it can be shared with people ou...