Pro-Choicers versus Anti-Vaxxers

The pro-choice movement made great headway in America ever since the 1960s. Their argument was simple: women said, “It is my body and I will do what I want with it. The government has nothing to say about it. If I want to get an abortion it is my choice.”

This argument held sway enough within our society that abortion became legal due to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The state should essentially stay out of a woman’s decisions about her own body and anything in it.

And now the anti-vaxxers are using the exact same argument against the government that is trying to impose on their bodies the need for a vaccination to limit and ultimately defeat the Covid-19 virus. They picture themselves as “freedom fighters” against the lethal power of said government. Some consider themselves the new American revolutionaries, just like our forebears from 1776.

Obviously, the government has interfered and usurped our bodies many times over the course of our history. It has drafted us to fight our wars, leading us to face the possibility of death on the battlefield. It has food inspections, traffic rules, vaccine requirements for kids to go to school; seat belt laws, gas laws, voting laws, drinking laws, various taxes and fees—the list can go on quite a bit.

We are free except when we aren’t. The government interferes with us except when it doesn’t.

Should the anti-vaxxers use the same tact as the pro-choice advocates? Is their case really the same? Or is it stronger?

Let’s take a quick look:

  • Anti-vaxxers can carry a deadly disease and infect many others, family members, strangers. If they are on a crowded train or a bus or at a party, no one there is actually safe from the virus the anti-vaxxer might carry.
  • The entire country, the entire world, can suffer horribly if they continue to cry for their freedom to be infected. Even the return of measles to our children can be laid at the feet of the anti-vaxxers.
  • Hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed by the anti-vaxxers taking up beds and ICUs. People with other medical conditions might not be serviced.
  • The woman who has an unwanted pregnancy is no risk to anyone. Yes, if you believe she is carrying a baby then you think she will be killing that baby but, on a train, or a bus or at a party, we are all safe from getting pregnant because she is pregnant.
  • Members of the woman’ family might be unhappy if they learn she is going for an abortion. There might be some family tension. That doesn’t have to do with anyone else.
  • The father of the fetus might be unhappy, if he is still around.
  • A pregnant woman can’t make a room or a country pregnant.

Okay, so who has the right to the “our bodies, ourselves” argument? Pro-choicers or anti-vaxxers? Which one should drop their argument and find another one to cry their cause?

God versus Religion

I enjoy watching the debates on YouTube between atheist intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, among many, many others, against those who postulate the existence of God such as William Lane Craig, Ken Ham, Dinesh D’Souza, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach among many, many others.

My criticism of the debates goes fairly deep, but one point I find irritating. They get bogged down in religion. They get bogged down in the Bible (among some other religious texts).

Hitchens is great in such moments as he brings to the surface of the debate many of the horrors one can read in the Bible. Adam and Eve being thrown out of the Garden to work, Eve to have pain in childbirth and both of them to ultimately die—along with all the rest of humanity! Their horrible transgression? They ate a forbidden fruit.

You can go through the Old Testament or Torah and see God’s wrath on full display.  The flood that kills all but a handful, the slaughter of innocents in Egypt (those little first-born infants zapped!), the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God asking a man to kill his own son (as God will do in the New Testament by killing himself) and on and on the horrors go.

Hitchens enjoys laying to waste to other New Testament concepts too. God impregnates a woman to give birth to himself. Huh?

Hitchens chides religion for demanding circumcision and genital mutilation of women. And on and on it goes.

Stop the discussion! Please stop the discussion!

The question of whether or not there is a God has nothing to do with religion of any kind. It has nothing to do with tradition. It has nothing to do with any of the myriad religious texts that exist and if any of them are believed to be true by true believers.

The existence or possible existence of a God or gods has nothing to do with the religions that have adopted God’s or the gods’ existence and based their ideas on these religious books or traditions.

The debate should be cut in half. One half—the most important half—is whether there actually is a God. What are the arguments for it; what are the arguments against it?

The second half of the debate is the efficacy of these religious texts. Are they worth the time to study them? Can they be acknowledged from an historical perspective? Do they have literary value? Maybe they are fun, nonsensical stories claiming to know of real events in the past of primitive people?

Don’t try to prove there is a God by quoting religious texts or tradition. They prove nothing. Get these debates situated correctly. That’s all I ask.

(You will note that I capitalized the “G” in God. I don’t want religious people to flee before finishing this article. And I did not use the biblical god’s real name because some folks get upset when people do. I just wanted to make my point.)

 

 

 

 

 

Hear Me Roar!

Since the pandemic hit us in January of 2020, a curious situation has arisen in our lives. More cars seem to be speeding on the roads than I ever remember. Muffler-less cars or cars that have had their mufflers amplified are zooming loudly along the parkways. They are even zooming loudly, even drag racing on the streets—side streets, my street!

The parkway is about a mile from my house and you rarely heard the traffic from there in the pre-pandemic days. Now? From morning until, well, the next morning—24 hours a day to be exact—those modified cars are speeding, racing, making a roar. I have actually had racing dreams where I have incorporated the cars’ sounds into my REM sleep.

“Where are the cops?” my wife, the Beautiful AP asks.

“Probably taking care of the riots,” I’d say. In fact, New York City has and is experiencing not only riots but an upsurge in crime that is beginning to make the City look like the pre-Bloomberg and pre-Giuliani days. People are getting battered, sexually assaulted, and shot in broad daylight.

But who are the sods making such a racket on the parkways and roads in my once-upon-a-time sleepy suburban community? I’ve met some of them during my teaching career and my post-teaching career when I toured America and Canada giving talks and lessons to thousands of adults.

My first reaction is to label them losers who need loudness to certify that they exist. You could see this propensity in certain high school students; they were loud, often obnoxiously so. Their voices would echo through the hallways and in some teachers’ classrooms (not mine thankfully). Their loudness called true attention to themselves. Their grades? Generally, crummy. Their vocal cords? Generally high-performing.

I posit that as they aged, school hallways gave way to streets and highways. The great outdoors meant that entire communities could hear now them.

There were a handful of adult students in my post-teaching career who were as loud as their teenaged counterparts. Still, “I roar therefore I am” is an apt description for the roaring ones both young and old.

Are these muffler-less drivers new? No. Are they many?” Definitely. Far more than I ever heard pre-shutdown. I ask you: What the hell is wrong with them?

Bing, Bang, Boom

I have two reasons why I hate fireworks on July 4th or on any day or night of the year. The first reason is personal and the second reason, well, that’s personal too.

The first is noise. Day and night on July 3rd and 4th and in recent years, on random days and nights throughout the entire year, we hear boom, boom, boom on our block somewhere. I actually don’t know who the firework’s king or queen is but I wish he or she would be deposed. Every firework that goes off sounds as if it’s on our doorstep, even if it isn’t.

My second personal reason is the fact that some 40 years ago my house caught fire from some idiot’s Roman candle landing on the roof and bingo! up came the flames. It wasn’t the house I live in now and it wasn’t with the person I am married to now. Still, I didn’t want my first wife to die; I just wanted a divorce.

The younger me climbed up a ladder, got on the roof, and watered everything down. I stayed there in case any more Roman candles landed, wondering if it had been a Roman candle that caused Rome to burn.

I don’t cause a racket blowing stuff up, probably for the same reason I don’t remove the muffler from my car and then drag race: I get enough attention elsewhere.

Most likely many of the bing, bang, boom sods are often the same losers who speed along in muffler-less cars.  Please, would somebody give them some attention?

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries and bookstores.  

My Rejected Screenplay

I sent in a pitch of my new screenplay in 2018. I had one almost accepted by DreamWorks when that company first opened in the 1990s. I’ve written about that particular ordeal in one of my books.

The new one was going to be a big, whopping, costing countless millions that would attract a gigantic audience. I thought it would be a better seller than Jaws or Star Wars or Titanic.

I was meeting with two top executives, Paul J. and James C.

James started the meeting off. “Good afternoon Frank. What have you got for us?”

Frank: “It’s a big one. A grand one with so many elements in it that will attract people to watching it.”

Paul: “Shoot!”

Frank: “It’s about a pandemic that circles the globe killing about 10 million people, about a million in America. The thought is that the virus, called Viral-18, came from a Chinese laboratory and was accidentally release—or even released on purpose—into China and then was picked up and traveled the world on airplanes and boats, especially cruise ships.”

James: “That’s not much of a death toll.”

Frank: “Ah, but there is more. Whole countries close down because there is no real way to fight the disease.”

Paul: “Doesn’t sound like much.”

Frank: “But doctors recommend wearing masks and then society splits in two on the subject. In America and in Europe. Fights actually start in stores and on the street over whether to wear masks or not. The people who refuse to wear masks think wearing a mask is destroying their freedom.

“People are laid off work. The housing market skyrockets as city people start buying suburban and rural houses. The suburbanites aren’t happy to have these people.

“The President of the United States is a guy who used to do a reality show on television. He refuses to read and is involved in shady dealings. He has an orange face too. And strange hair.”

Paul: “Like John Boehner?”

Frank: “Even more. He won’t wear a mask and his followers do what he does. Many evangelical Christians think this guy was sent from God to destroy the evils of the government. Right wing movements are growing in European countries too. Including Germany.”

James: “So far it is ridiculous.”

Frank: “There is a lot more here. Militias start forming and they join each other all over the country. They talk to each other over social media sites and stockpile weapons. At a certain point these people attack Congress and try to kill the Vice President who is himself an evangelical, who won’t be with a woman in a restaurant unless his wife is with him.”

James: “This isn’t going to be some study of sick men, is it?”

Frank: “No, no, they are just the decorations on the tree of the story.”

Paul: “Continue.”

Frank: “As this is happening cities come under fire from the left-wing. Radicals wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Cops are targeted and there is also a big black/white confrontation about racism and the left hates the police and the right loves them except something goes screwy with them when they attack Congress.”

James: “Where’s the sex? We don’t want G or PG.”

Frank: “Plenty of sex. Not all normal either. The President has had many affairs and he has to buy all the women off. The news media plays this up too. He even says he grabs women by their private parts. We can show this too if we go R rated.

“Also, an idea is that whites are inherently racist. This takes place all over the country. Some cities have nightly riots! Stores are looted and burned. This group is often referred to as the ‘Awakes.’ They destroy statues of people they hate like Lincoln.

Paul: “Who the hell could hate Lincoln?”

Frank: “So, you have a new civil war becoming possible.”

James: “I don’t know. Sounds derivative. But weird sex is a good element. Does he have a wife?”

Frank: “A beauty with a great accent. She was a model, even did nudes before she married the President.

“There’s more. While all this is going on, the country and the world is faced with a UFO problem. The government now admits, even a former President admits, that UFOs are real and do things none of our aircraft can do. There are all sorts of tapes from the military showing these craft making our planes look silly. Are we being invaded from space? The world hangs in the balance.

Paul: “I don’t know, The UFOs are kind of old. There have been a lot of movies about UFOs.”

Frank: “Oh, I forgot, Asians are being attacked all over the country because people blame them for the Viral-18 virus. Other minorities are attacking Asians but only one channel shows this.”

James: “But Crazy Rich Asians is making a bundle.”

Frank: “Yeah, but now here is another one to add. The President of the United States runs for reelection and loses the popular vote and the electoral college to some old guy who keeps falling as he walks up the stairs to his plane. This old guy is accused of being a pawn of the Chinese. The ousted President, who is supported by the Russians, claims that the election was rigged. His followers start going berserk. That’s when they try to take over Congress too and even beat up and kill police. They even have a sign saying they are going to kill the Vice President.

“The states certify that the President lost. Scores of cases are brought to the courts and the President is defeated in all of them. Doesn’t matter, a religion has now grown up around this guy. It is called ‘U’ and the President is now looked upon as almost a god that the Christian God has groomed perfectly and, here is really the weird stuff, the opposition party is now believed to be controlled by Satanists who have sex with children and drink their blood. ‘U’ claims that all over the world these Satanists are destroying children and countries and fixing elections.”

James: “Do you really think movie audiences could believe all this?”

Frank: “There is one fake ballot found during the election. One man murdered his wife and then sent in her mail-in vote and the vote was for the President!

“All of this going on with UFOs and the pandemic and an upcoming civil war between the left and the right. People are refusing to be vaccinated too with a new vaccine that was quickly created. They are leaving themselves open to this world-wide disease and some of them are causing trouble on airplanes. They’ll wear seat belts but they won’t wear masks.”

James: “Frank, listen. A worldwide disease, people refusing to be vaccinated against it, a wacky orange President, religious fanatics who think this guy is a god, UFOs, Satanists, pedophiles, a rebellion on the left and the right, a right-wing attempt to take over Congress and a new President who trips up the stairs? Who could believe all of this going on at the same time? Nobody.”

Paul: “I have to agree with James. Nobody would believe this. The story is completely nutty. It’s all over the place. There is no way all this could be happening.”

Frank: “Oh, oh, and hackers are hacking into our oil lines and meat-packing plants. America is in a cyber war too. How’s that?”

Paul: Adding more isn’t helping. The answer is no.

They were right, I guess. These things were just too much for a movie. No one would believe it.

Scobe’s Yay or Nay: Seaspiracy

 

I love documentaries, usually about anything. I have seen the greatest birds in the world on my television screen. I might not get to the top of a real mountain but I’ve been on many a televised mountain including Everest.

I’ve also been under the sea. And that, as of now, has done me in.

Do you love to eat fish? I did. When I was in Alaska, I ate King Salmon for three meals on many days! Now I won’t eat fish, of any kind, anymore. My wife, the Beautiful AP, ate so much fish in her life that she can stay submerged for seemingly hours. She won’t eat fish anymore either.

The documentary, seen on Netflix, titled Seaspiracy has done that to us. Actually, watching this documentary has led us to firmly conclude that our oceans are done in—and not just by plastic straws, plastic garbage bags and take-out containers. No, something bigger is happening. Much, much bigger.

Seaspiracy starts off rather relaxed, like a snowball at first rolling down the hill, and by the end you have a snowball bigger than Mt. Everest. The documentary maker never quit pursuing the topic layer by layer, even when his life was in danger. By the end my wife and I were saying, “Oh, my God!” “Oh, my God!” scene after scene. We looked at each other and nodded and said, “I will never eat fish again.”

I am not going to ruin this documentary for you—if ruin is the right word—but I must tell you that I think you might be saying “Oh, my God!” by the end too.

Seaspiracy is the most powerful documentary about the oceans that I have ever seen. It gets as many “yays” as I can give it.

Seaspiracy is currently playing on Netflix.

Frank Scoblete’s web site is wwwfrankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, libraries, e-books and at bookstores.

 

 

 

 

Scobe’s Yay or Nay: The Zoo

This is my “review” section where I will publicly take a look at various things that I usually take a look at without telling anyone I have taken a look at them. These can be books, articles, documentaries, short stories, or films. Maybe even comments by politicians that are for the birds.

Today, most people have wider tastes than in the past. In fact, our tastes have become so wide that we, as a population, have become rather wide too, but that’s probably from addictive junk food.

Yay stands for good. Nay stands for not-so-good.

So today I wish to inform you of a television show titled Zoo based on a James Patterson novel titled Zoo. I like science fiction and even before our COVID-19 pandemic I would read novels and watch movies about pandemics. Of course, my intelligent and insightful self never thought any of that nonsense would actually happen in real life.

The premise of Zoo is terrific. The animals, including all the birds, decide to kill all the human beings on earth. Correct. Little Chihuahua from down the block wants to eat your face off. (Actually, I think all those barking, scratching annoyances want to do that anyway.) Hummingbirds would go for the eyes, of course.

The first season was a Yay. The leader of the human group was a pretty blonde French woman with a normal face. They killed her off quickly and introduced a new attractive woman in the second season. Then, as the show progressed, something really weird happened. The lips of all the women on the show went from normal, to puffy, to puffier, to puffiest. From normal to pouty to poutier, to poutiest. Just like that!

Those of you old enough might remember those huge red wax lips from long ago. Like that. Some producer or director or who knows who must have told the actresses that the men who watch the show really like puffiest, poutiest lips. And so puffiest and poutiest they became.

It got to the point where I was constantly shouting out to my wife, the Beautiful AP, “Oh, God, they puffed up the lips of another actress! Her lips look closer to the Blob than to a human!”

It got to the point where I lost track of the story line. Birds attacking people? Who knows? I couldn’t follow the story; I could only follow the lips.

Finally, my wife came into the room, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “This show is driving you crazy. Stop watching it. Read a book about a pandemic or something.”

I stopped watching it. Yet my sleep has now been disturbed by lip-mares.

The Zoo deserves a huge, lip-glossed Nay!

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores. If you want to 

“Let There Be Light!”

The first paragraph of the Book of Genesis in the Bible is beautiful. Here’s how it goes: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth; the earth was without form and void with darkness over the face of the abyss and a mighty wind swept over the surface of the waters and God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light!”

I want to go outside on January 2nd and shout out the exact same words to achieve the almost the exact result. But the light I am talking about is the light of holiday decorations. Twinkle twinkle little stars.

I love the time of Thanksgiving to New Years. Most of that time is not even winter, but what makes those days magnificent are the people who light up their houses with Christmas lights.

I can take or leave the religious aspects of Christmas. The birth of Jesus did not occur anywhere near December 25th. We know that the early Christians borrowed days and events from the various pagan cultures and in doing so, slowly solidified their hold on the world.

Mithras, the sun god, would be proud, perhaps, to lend his December 25th birthday to Jesus. But, if you want to believe the birth of Christ was on December 25th, go ahead, have at it.

The world from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is a twinkling, sparkling wonderland. Every trip outdoors is a treat to the eyes.

I dread the dull months of January and February. Here in New York, January and February can be bleak and the occasional snow brings more annoyance than joy. Snow is best in photos and videos. In reality, snow cleverly conceals treacherous ice and is soon bathed in filthy car fumes.

But I digress.

January and February should be the Let-There-Be-Light months. Homeowners should continue to display blinking, twinkling outdoor lights and folks who do put up lights should be given a tax break by their local governments.

I would not associate the Let-There-Be-Light time period with any religion either. Every home should be adorned with holiday lights. (Okay, okay: I never put up holiday lights…but that’s from sheer laziness.)

I want winter to sparkle!

If you need some holiday at the end of the season of light, then let’s change Thanksgiving to the last week of February.

Perhaps if we all go outside on January 2nd and shout, “Let there be light!” my dream will become a sparkling reality. And if everyone accepts my idea, well then, I will put up lights too.

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

Betty Bruiser and the Kiss from Hell

She was known as Betty Bruiser. I don’t remember her real name. I just know she was a fearsome presence in Our Lady of Angels Grammar School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in the early 1960s.

We were in sixth grade then. The boys were in one school, having been separated from the girls at the start of that school year. The nuns knew that boys and girls shouldn’t be together once the boys were experiencing adolescence. So, the boys were now taught by the Franciscan brothers, a tough lot.

The nuns thought of the girls as clean and sparkling Catholics. Heaven would be theirs. The boys, well, Hell probably knew our names.

Betty was a bruiser. In all ways. When she played basketball, she played the defensive end of the court. In those days girls’ basketball had three girls on one side of the court as defense and three girls on the other side of the court as offense. It was always three against three. Girls were considered frail and therefore they couldn’t play a full court game as did the boys.

Defense tried to stop the other team’s offense. Defense did not shoot the ball but tried to get the ball to their offense on the other side of the court.

Betty’s prowess came to the fore when she broke the nose of a girl from St. Thomas Aquinas. There was blood everywhere. It was Betty’s first game for our school. That one game sealed her as “the Bruiser.” Word got around the Catholic grammar schools in Brooklyn and girls were terrified of playing against her.

When she played dodge ball, that ball would knock opponents on their rear ends or cause them nose bleeds when it hit them in the face. Every player wanted Betty Bruiser on their team, not so much because she was cherished but because she was a horrifyingly relentless opponent.

Even though the girls had to wear gym uniforms that were styled like bloomers, Betty Bruiser was the only girl who seemed to fit into hers.

So, what did Betty Bruiser have to do with me?

She loved me. She loved me with all her heart and all the powerful muscles in her body. She would refer to me as “My Scobe.” She would wink at me in the schoolyard during recess. It was terrifying

Was she ugly? I don’t really know. Is the incredible Hulk ugly? You don’t hang around to form an opinion.

But it was a party at my friend Billy Benjamin’s apartment that caused the problem between her and me.

This would be my first unchaperoned party—meaning no parents. Stevie Labashio told me they would be playing a game I’d never heard of called “spin the bottle.”

So, as always, I went to my mother and asked her about the game. She explained it to me and added, “You can play it if you want.”

“I don’t want to play,” I said. I didn’t want to play the game because I didn’t want to waste my first kiss on just anyone; I wanted it to be with Mary Sassalo. Also, I didn’t exactly have the kiss down pat. (See my story of The Virgin Kiss and how I taught myself to be a great kisser.)

The night of the party and I was dressed to the nines, meaning I was wearing sneakers and a sweat shirt. Then Betty Bruiser entered.

She was invited to the party! Several of the boys asked Billy why he invited her. “I had to. Her mother is friends with my mother, so my mother forced me.”

“I’m not playing the kiss the bottle game,” I said.

Spin the bottle,” said Stevie.

“Not that one either,” I said.

The party was fine but Betty Bruiser kept trying to get me to talk to her privately. “Let’s go in another room, My Scobe,” she said.

I’d either pretend I didn’t hear her or start a quick conversation with someone else. I didn’t want to tell her that I wanted nothing to do with her. She might beat me up.

Now it was time for spin the bottle. I announced immediately that I wasn’t playing. I joked that I was too good a kisser and didn’t want to make anyone feel bad.

“Kissing the dog doesn’t count,” said Billy.

The first kid up was Stevie and he spun the bottle and it pointed to pretty Cathy O’Connor. Their kiss was quick and Stevie gave a thumbs up as if he had just hit a home run.

The game went around the room and finally Betty Bruiser was next. I sat behind Willie Williams, just near the bathroom. Since I wasn’t playing, I felt that this distance from the game was a good idea. I felt really sorry for the poor guy who had to kiss The Bruiser.

Betty took the bottle and looked around the room. I am not sure she could see the terror in the eyes of the boys and the hidden delight in the eyes of the girls. Some boy was doomed to kiss her.

The Bruiser saw me. She looked like a jungle cat eyeing her prey. Not a big deal for me because everyone knew I wasn’t playing, right?

Betty Bruiser picked up the bottle, looked right through Willie Williams, directly at me and smiled, mouthing the words “My Scobe.”

She then spun the bottle. Around it went, only once, and it landed on Willie Williams. There was a pause and then Willie Williams jumped up and ran out of the room, “No, no, no!”

“My Scobe!” And she ran at me. She landed on me, a powerful force of nature, and my chair tipped backwards and off we flew. I skidded into the bathroom, hitting my head on the toilet.

Betty Bruiser leapt on me—she was very heavy—and now she was kissing my face and—oh my God!—licking me trying to get her tongue into my mouth. I thought, what is wrong with this girl?

I fought as if my life depended on it—and maybe it did! I refused to let her kiss me on the lips but I just couldn’t muster enough strength to get her body off me.  My nose was wet with saliva now.

I was squirming like a worm but she was plastered on me.

Finally, I was saved as the rest of the boys showed pity on me and dragged her off me. It was like a brawl at a ball game as the boys stayed between her and me.

“My Scobe,” she repeated, charging at me. “My Scobe. My Scobe. My Scobe.” A few times she almost made it through the boys—she was so strong—but their lines held.

She finally calmed down and the girls led her to the bedroom. I hustled out of the apartment.

I swore off parties for the next two years. They were just too dangerous. Instead, I spent my leisure time practicing my kissing technique for Mary, the girl of my dreams.

Rating the Full Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

These films set the stage for the Avengers and interplay among all the great heroes.

By Frank Scoblete and Rob Meyerson

5 Stars: ***** Superb in every way

4 Stars: ****  Excellent — maybe some quibbles

3 Stars: ***   Good for a viewing

2 Stars: **     Won’t kill you to watch it with good pop corn

1 Star: *         Might bore you to death

0 Star: 0         Stick pins in your eyes; that is far more fun

So who is this guy Rob Meyerson? He is my guru of science fiction commentaries, comic book commentaries, and movies based on those and books and articles on those that only the elite in those fields can even understand. I thought I was somewhat smart but I am a bug created in a lab by mad scientists and bit by a rabid human to have a degree of intelligence. So we are both giving our opinions of these movies.

So who is Frank Scoblete? Dear reader, you are probably familiar with his genius as a writer-gaming guru with a wry sense of humor but he is so much more. He only thinks I am smart because I have an inkling of how brilliant he is. Also, a great friend.

Iron Man #1 (2008):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Robert Downey Jr. IS Iron Man. The essence of cool (and snark) and yet he has the little kid wonder at how much fun the iron man suit he created is to own and fly This is epitomized by the scene where he is testing the suits flight capabilities in his lab/supercar garage.  Director John Favreau has a vision of a superhero movie that is as realistic as such a thing could be and yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. I understand that Robert insisted on Gwyneth appearing in all three Iron man movies which makes him a good friend as well as a brilliant actor.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: This started the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a terrific script, direction, special effects and acting. Robert Downey Jr. established himself as Iron Man and his performance has become a standard of excellence in comic book movies. Acting throughout is excellent and Gwyneth Paltrow is a wonderful Pepper Potts.. Not a false step that I can see.

The Incredible Hulk (2008):

Rob: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: Five stars for the always fascinating to watch Ed Norton but he needed to be surrounded by a better movie. I don’t mind Liv Tyler but who can compete with the deep, complex and fascinating Jennifer Connolly of the original Hulk movie?

Scobe: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Ed Norton, the star of this movie and a terrific actor, made a big mistake in dumping this role after filming. Mark Ruffalo took over and the rest is Marvel history. This is an excellent movie with one slight flaw; I was not in love with Liv Tyler’s performance, a little too mechanical. It is extremely hard to make a film about the Hulk because it tends to fall into the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mode. Nice doctor goes nuts at times. Otherwise one great film.

Iron Man #2 (2010):

Rob: 4 stars ****

Comments: Robert Downey, Jr. is STILL Iron Man.  Another excellent performance from Mickey Rourke, back on screen after his boxing “career.” Cold and even colder when he lets slip how much fun he is having being evil.  Sam Rockwell should not be overlooked asw the ultra-sleazy self-loving billionaire who “thinks” he is in charge.

Scobe: 4 stars ****

Comments: Another strong film, another winner, just a cut below the first Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (in his small moments) give enjoyable performances. One person I should single out is Jon Favreau who has become the ultimate comic-book movie director. He also has small roles in many of the Marvel films. This film figured out how to be funny as well as spectacular thanks to writer Justin Theroux.

Thor (2011):

Rob: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Kenneth Branagh recognized the mythic Shakespearean Operatic aspects of Thor and assembles a film that delivers.  Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as the villain who believes (maybe correctly) that he is the hero of the tale. Hiddleston gleefully tricks and pans his “brother” Thor. Chris Hemsworth suffers Loki’s torment as best he can and the square jaw-d hero type adds a wry sense of almost admiration about how good his “brother” Loki is at being bad.  The always exquisite Natalie Portman adds humor as the clearly brilliant scientist who is fascinated by being/in love with the god fell-to-earth Thor. More Thor!

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Kenneth Branagh was the best Hamlet I ever saw. Kenneth Branagh was the best director of that very same Hamlet. Thor, written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Natalie PortmanTom Hiddleston as his mischievous and sometimes evil brother Loki, Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgard. It was directed by Branagh and it is a masterpiece that takes place on Asgard, home of the Norse gods, and then on the planet of the Frost Giants. And when Thor is cast out of his sacred homeland and sent to Earth, we see him learn an important lesson; that leaders must be humble and not filled with hubris. Everything about this movie is superb.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011):

Rob:  4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Tough to bring the ultra-patriotic red, white, and blue suited Captain America to life for a jaded modern audience, but Chris Evans and the character and movie he brings to life and this film does it brilliantly. It creates a story about “the greatest generation” and fills it with vastly larger than life heroes (Bucky Barns and Peggy Carter) filled with the Red Skull and horde of Nazi scientists that just beg to be defeated.  The ending (Borrowed form Stairway to Heaven with David Niven) sets up the rest of the series with Cap crashing and freezing.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Another superb movie. Takes place during World War II with the creation of the first superhero. From the characters to the actors who play them I give full applause. It is a movie where you really do get into the heads of people who seem so real. Chris Evans takes the role of the Captain and is beautiful to behold. He is a young man who wants to fight against the Nazis but he is too weak and sickly to be accepted into the service. Then he gets a chance. Wow!

The Avengers (2012):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Five-star movie but I prefer single superhero tales. I can deal with one hero with powers but when the book (or, in this case, the movie) is filled with them I want to know when I am getting my own powers (and suit).  Always great to see Joss Whedon involvement but in the alternate universe I want to visit, instead of MCU movies he got to deliver at least five years of Firefly and the full five years of Dollhouse he was planning). Tom Hiddleston is less a prankster and more of the super-human evil foe that is more than a match for all of the avengers until they act like the team they need to be.  No offense to Eric Bana and Ed Norton but I prefer Mark Ruffalo’s embarrassed-more-than-afraid of his alter-persona Hulk.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Bring it on. Usually with so many heroes in a movie (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye) you’d think the execution would be cumbersome. Not so. This is an edge of your seat thriller where they fight a horrible alien threat initiated by the evil Loki. They also fight each other at times. Introduces Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. His performance surpasses Ed Norton’s in sensitivity and strength. A must see movie!

Iron Man #3 (2013):

Rob: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: No villain, no movie. Tony stark is in a struggle with himself but that is the Marvel superhero’s trademark. I had to google IMDB and Wikipedia to refresh my memory ow who the villain was and I’m still not sure.  I am planning to watch this movie again. Maybe.

Scobe: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: Somewhat depressing as Tony Stark is recovering from the war against Loki. Does set up the future angst of the character. Movie has some great moments but at times it seems a little forced.

Thor: The Dark World (2013):

Rob: 4 stars ****

Comments: Same great cast. So much movie, so many writers but the film falls a little short. Still, seeing Thor and Loki team up was thrilling.

Scobe: 3.5 stars ***1/2*

Comments: This movie seems a little strained at times but does have one of the greatest hero-versus-villain fights at the end.

Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014):

Rob: 4 stars ****

Comments: Bucky Barnes as a rescued amnesiac anti-hero with a robot arm is an excellent conceit. Chris Evans does a great job handling the conflict between  the need to defeat the villain with his piece with memory of his friendship with the young Bucky Barnes and guilt over Bucky’s death.  Cap’s difficulties dealing with the modern world and dealing with the Winter Soldier who is only Bucky in small part makes the story compelling.

Scobe: 4 stars ****

Comments: Bucky Barnes returns but he isn’t the hero of the first film. He has been ruined by Hydra. Captain America must try to save him. Things don’t go exactly to plan.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (2014):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments:  So much fun. You don’t have to bank on known heroes to make a great movie, apparently. Groot! We need more Vin Diesel in anything but Fast and Furious cars.  So much personality in one word.  Bradley Cooper’s anthropomorphized Rocket is a hoot.  So much fun to see the heroes get thrown together and function was a group despite widely varied and frequently combative personalities.  For me the Guardians are a team in ways that the Avenger in any of the three movies are not.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: My first thought was that this would be an idiotic movie. I was wrong. It is terrific. How can a talking racoon and a sentient tree be super heroes? Just watch this treasure and find out.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015):

Rob: 2.5 stars **1/2*

Comments: Not my cup of tea. Starts too slow and then gets two frenetic. James Spader is an awesome actor elsewhere but this is a misstep with the cold computer/robot that is a no-personality being. A.I is logical but does not make a thrilling movie for me.  As noted above I am not a team-up fan.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Another great one! Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create an artificial intelligence being and, of course, it goes nuts, much like the computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We meet a couple of new Avengers. It’s rollicking and fun all the way from start to finish.

Ant-Man (2015):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Just a great action-adventure comedy.  Mark Rudd’s sometimes befuddled ex con-heroic-anti-hero-hero is flawless. Michael Douglas is wonderful as the mad-scientist. Evangeline Lilly is wonderful but under-used, which was remedied in the sequel Ant man and the Wasp. Michael Pena’s first-rate sidekick warranted an expanded role in the sequel which he was given.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: I had no idea this movie would be so amazingly good. Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and a host of great supporting actors and a script that just keeps on coming at you. Special effects with those ants blew me away. Total entrainment.

Captain America: Civil War (2016):

Rob: 2.5 stars **1/2*

Comments: Again, not my cup of tea.  As stated previously, I prefer individual superhero stories, not team-ups.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: This should actually be Avengers #3. It is the battle of the superheroes. Wow! We meet the Black Panther in this film and we learn that the government isn’t too happy with vigilantes, even the good ones. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Doctor Strange (2016):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: Acting powerhouse Benedict Cumberbatch can carry a film on his more-than-capable shoulders but I am glad he doesn’t have to. (Make a point to see Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes with Martin Freemen as Dr. Watson in Sherlock).  Tilda Swinton’s ancient master of magic is the perfect teacher/hero/villain. Librarian Benedict Wong does great things with a “small” part (See The Martian” and Wong as headmaster of The Deadly Class). I remember the comic for its psychedelic artwork which was effectively replaced by a film with its own complex and cohesive style. Cumberbatch strides through this CGI magic-world like a fish swims in the ocean; it is his environment.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: What do you get when you hire one of the best actors in the world to play Doctor Strange? You get Benedict Cumberbatch and another superb Marvel movie. Dr. Strange is the master of the mystic arts but a fighter from beginning to end. The script is first rate as are the special effects. Each actor shines!

Guardians of the Galaxy #2 (2017):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: See original review above.

Scobe: 4 stars ****

Comments: Another winner! Join the Guardians as they introduce us to everything!

Spider-Man Homecoming (2017):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: No MCU without Toby McGuire’s angst-ridden super Spider-Man but Tom Holland is the sarcastic teen-aged superhero thrust into a superhero role against his will which is closer to Spidey from the comics.  Marisa Tomei is as great an Aunt May as Sally Fields was previously in The Amazing Spider-Man.  Batman/Birdman/villain Michael Keaton brings complexity and humanity to whatever hero/villain he plays. (how could the “fans” have been upset when he was cast as Batman?). This film is a standout.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Tobey Maguire was a great Spider-Man but Tom Holland has created an even better one. This actor has leavened Spider-Man with energy and drive, not just as Spider-Man but as Peter Parker. Aunt May is the beautiful Marisa Tomei. The humor of the movie adds to it greatness and Michael Keaton is a great villain. Even the teenage love works. Kudos on a wonderful movie. Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man makes a visit or two and he is, as always, great in the role. This movie will hold up on numerous viewings. Strap yourself in!

Thor: Ragnarok (2017):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: This film is a standout!

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: This is a movie with everything. Great humor, great fighting, great story and a new version of the evolving Hulk. You’ll laugh and cringe and watch some interesting events that include Asgard’s destruction.

Black Panther (2018):

Rob:  5 stars *****

Comments: Great movie. We are given a complete, credible and cohesive world filled with complex fascinating characters to care about and a great story. When this world goes back to a semblance of normalcy, I would rather go to a movie theater to see this Black Panther movie again rather than anyone else in the role. The series of villains are each distinct and appropriately villainous and that is part of the fun.

Scobe: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: This is an excellent movie with one quibble; the villain at the end is just some street punk, albeit with great power, who tackles the Black Panther. Now, the Panther is an almost godlike king of an amazing civilization and he has to fight some guy who should be selling drugs on a street corner. Please, the Black Panther is a Thor-level character of great dimensions and should be opposed by someone of equal stature. The Black Panther needs a Loki! The film has strong roles for a variety of female characters. (The death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor who plays the Black Panther, is a serious blow to the Marvel Universe of fans; me included.)

Avengers Infinity War (2018):

Rob: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Time for a trip to the optometrist. There is just too much stuff to follow and it makes me dizzy. This is a fun movie and James Brolin gives us a single villain that stands up to the heroes. Fun movie and I’m glad the sequel came out relatively quickly.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: It’s on. Thanos intends to kill half the intelligent beings in the galaxy to save their civilizations. That’s genocide on an immeasurable scale. But he must first secure the five infinity stones to give him unlimited power. The Avengers in full throttle attempt to stop him. It will wreck your sleep because of the ending. Another superb Marvel movie.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: See Ant-Man above. The same excellent cast with an equally great story that successfully builds on the first movie. Looking forward to #3!

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: What five-star movie is better than another five-star movie? This one is even better than the last Ant-Man movie. Michael Douglas should have gotten a best supporting actor award for his wipe-out performance. Paul Rudd? Amazing. Evangeline Lilly? Wow! and kudos to his sidekicks too!

Captain Marvel (2019):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: The incomparable Brie Larson (The Room) makes this movie a stand out. We are used to seeing ripped and over-muscled male superheroes in every MCU film up to Captain Marvel. It is refreshing to see a lithe Olympic-class gymnast instead of all the beef. Captain Marvel brings constantly intriguing inventive problem-solving skills she learned as an ace fighter pilot to the confusing alternate-world she is thrust into.  Larson is not flashy and instead delves into the subtle complexity of her character. She is always fascinating to watch in every role, especially this one.

Scobe: 3 stars ***

Comments: The first part of the movie is (sorry to say this) quite dull. The lead actress, Brie Larson, does not have the energy of personality to pull off a character who will become the Superwoman of the Marvel Universe. Samuel L. Jackson is great as Nick Fury and the overall concept of the movie is quite compelling. It is a fun watch but not a top-notch Marvel thriller.

Avengers: Endgame (2019):

Rob: 4.5 stars ****1/2*

Comments: Too much of everything for a theatre. The only way to get everything this movie is crammed with is to buy the dvd and spend a week watching it frame-by-frame. That may make economic sense from the producer’s point-of-view but I refuse to do that. Still it’s fun to see every hero in the MCU make an appearance. It’s also fun to the villain vanquished and the universe saved yet again.  The real question is whether killing off heroes will revitalize the MCU

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Can the Avengers come back from the dead? This movie has it all and a Hulk that you might like or hate. War is hell! Go get that Thanos.

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019):

Rob: 5 stars *****

Comments: great to see Tom Holland back as Spider-Man.  Watching Jake Gyllenhaal team up with Spider-Man as the co-hero Peter Parker needs is almost as much fun SPOILER ALERT-SPOILER ALERT  as it is to see Jake as the gleefully greedy super-villain that makes Spidey’s ultimate last-second triumph all the sweeter.  The best James Bond movies are the ones with complex and interesting villains and that holds true here.  Well written and well-acted.  Glad to see a bigger part for Happy Hogan; maybe he knows the director.  Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. Part of the fun of rock climbing (since I was 16) is getting as close to being Spider-Man as I can without being bitten by a radioactive spider.

Scobe: 5 stars *****

Comments: Another superb movie. Spider-Man is in a class of his own and Tom Holland and a great script by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers are the reasons for this. Spidey fights great villains and the contests are amazing. The usual cast returns and Spidey’s best friend, Ned Leeds (played beautifully by Jacob Batalon) is a terrific foil for Peter Parker. We want more Spider-Man movies!

 

Top 10 Favorite Athletes

One of my friends, a former teaching colleague posted his list of his 10 favorite athletes. I did so too. Here they are from me.

  1. Muhammad Ali: Sat next to him at a fight in Madison Square Garden. Nicest guy ever. Sad what happened to him. I remember when he met the great but ancient Joe Louis who was in a wheelchair, drooling, nodding and mentally out of it. Ali said, “I will never become like that.” God has a vicious sense of humor doesn’t he? Ali wound up far, far worse.
  2. Joe DiMaggio: Kind of a family tradition. Met him at Yankee Stadium in 1953. Despite what authors have written about his aloofness, he shook my hand and talked to me about my (MY!) playing baseball. I was six years old and I remember the meeting clearly. So I am a die hard Yankee fan because of that meeting.
  3. Jackie Robinson: He’s in heaven now (if there is a heaven). Took a lot of crap and performed athletically and intellectually at the highest level. Not many men could have done what he did and done it brilliantly. Met him once at Ebbets Field. I was also a Dodgers fan until they moved to California.
  4. Oscar Robertson: The best of all time. I know, I know everyone thinks it is Jordan but Oscar is and was the man. His nemesis, Jerry West, was another great one but no one was Oscar.
  5. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson: Entwined together in my mind. The greatest rivalry in basketball of all time. Two of the top 10 greats in the sport.
  6. Sugar Ray Leonard: Just a shade below Sugar Ray Robinson, the fighter who was truly the greatest of all time. Leonard fought the best of his generation in some spectacular matches.
  7. Jesse Owens: Fuck you Hitler! An American who showed the truth about himself and the freedom to compete in a free society (well, not quite as free for some Americans). Of course, it has taken almost a hundred years of struggle but we are (I hope) moving in the right direction. Jesse Owens showed us that we can win.
  8. Lou Gehrig: One of the five greatest baseball players of all time. Courage and class all the way.
  9. Babe Ruth: A serious abuser of food and booze and cigars. Those three things should now be banned from sports because look what they did for “the Babe.”  An amazing hitter, an amazing pitcher, an amazing guy. His statistics topped many entire teams in his day and they are still a high standard to live up to.
  10. Willie Mays: One of the five best baseball players of all time. Brought joy to the game and was great to watch even when he was older.

(There you go. I do have my “don’t like” list too. Maybe someday I’ll post that. There is no football or other sports on my list since those aren’t in my vision.)