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Avengers: Age Of Ultron Review

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Wow! That’s what I was saying minutes after I walked out of the Destiny Regal Destiny IMAX 3D presentation of Avengers: Age of Ultron. I was trying to catch my breath; I’d been so engaged that I couldn’t even think of getting up at any point to go to the bathroom. At my age that’s a big deal.

poster imageBefore I get to the movie itself, let me talk about the IMAX theater at Destiny here in Syracuse. I’d only seen one other movie there, that being Ender’s Game. Although I enjoyed that movie, what it was lacking was a 3D version. In essence, it was a regular movie but on a bigger screen. It lacked punch because of that; I enjoyed it much better on blu-ray DVD.

However, watching Age of Ultron in IMAX 3D; that’s what this type of technology and movie was made for. The action was big; the explosions were big; the sound was big. Also, the spacing of the seats meant you would be very comfortable since you weren’t packed in tightly against your neighbor. I’ve read some reviews where the person said there was too much action; they couldn’t have handled this movie in this theater. It was perfect!

Now to the movie, which I’ll try to do without giving anything big away; that’s never fair, especially since it just came out.

In a nutshell, Age of Ultron follows what was revealed at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier. If people didn’t see that one then the beginning wouldn’t make sense. In Captain America, we’re introduced to a group calling itself Hydra that had thoroughly infiltrated The Shield and, though the main group had been thwarted, there was a secret hideout for Hydra where they were using some of the alien technology introduced in previous Marvel movies to enhance not only some machinery but two… not sure I can call them kids, so I’ll say young adults.

This movie begins with the Avengers having figured out where the hideout is and attacking the compound. Suffice it to say that they’re the Avengers; you know what has to happen. However, in the process they encounter the kids and aren’t prepared for their skills. They also encounter the technology, which sets up the premise for the rest of the movie.

The central question of this movie is something that most of us have pondered once or twice in our lives: if there was a way to create something that would assure the protection of the earth and all of civilization should we create it? I’m not giving anything away to say that’s where Ultron comes from, as that’s Tony Stark’s motive (once again played by Robert Downey, Jr), since all previews have alerted us to this. Like many movies before, technology has come to a much different conclusion of what measures need to be taken to protect humanity than humanity has.

I’m not going to give away any of the plot twists and surprises that come because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone; maybe a year from now I’ll come back and update this article. What I will say is that there was a lot of action sequences that I loved, including the ending parts of the movie. In the down times we learn a lot more about some of the characters that I found fascinating.

Oh yeah; there’s lots of humor in the movie as well. I love one-liners and there are tons here. Whether they’re in the midst of the battle or just chilling, it’s fascinating stuff; when these folks are aligned in thought they really seem to like each other. One thing I wasn’t sure of was the time period between Winter Soldier and this movie, but they seemed to have learned how to be more cohesive as a unit.

If you like action, you’ll love this movie. If you want to see something in 3D that will finally blow your mind away, this is that movie, and if you have access to IMAX… do it! Heck, I might have to do it again… even at the price of $18.50; yes, it was worth that! :-)  

5 Takeaways From The Bruce Jenner Interview

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Wow! Last night was something special wasn’t it?

For those not in the know, Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Decathlon champion of the Olympics, which made him the greatest athlete in the world, was interviewed by Diane Sawyer of ABC News where he announced to the world that he considers himself a woman. Goodness, just the topic was compelling enough to get me to turn on the TV to watch, as the only things I’ve watched on TV for the last bunch of months has been a couple of movies, some sports and WWE Wrestling. :-)

theinterviewI decided to get my thoughts in early on this one because, I’ll admit it, I know that there’s going to be a lot of people who will write about this one later and I hope to beat a bunch of them to the punch; old expression but so be it. And, because I know people love list posts so much, I decided to give 5 things I got from this entire process. Here we go.

1. We got this response right from the beginning from Bruce: “I am a woman.” Wow! I was hoping we wouldn’t have to wait an hour for that one and instead we got it out of the way right from the beginning. That was smart because it allowed the two of them to talk about it without their being this albatross in the room about “Is he or not; let’s get to it already.”

2. As nervous as he seemed early on, you could tell that he had been prepared to tell his story for a long while. It was interesting to see how he’d kind of told his previous wives about his interest in wearing women’s clothing during a time when that would have been a major taboo. I like how he said he knew his first wife thought she could change him; wives, you can never change your men unless they want to be changed. lol

His second wife couldn’t handle it all that well, but after all she’d also been with but come on, Linda Thompson had to deal with the Elvis stuff and probably thought she had a good thing going with Bruce and then he started his first round of treatments; I don’t blame her for anything.

3. The family dynamic overall is an interesting one.

His older kids seem to be the most comfortable and openly supportive of it all. One of his sons even said “Now it all makes sense”. His other son is the coolest, mellowest guy I’ve seen in a long time. His previous wives had nice statements of support also.

His sister had an interesting first response. Seems he told her 10 years ago and she handled it well initially, cried while driving home, and never talked to him again about it, including reaching out to him, until recently, thinking that maybe it would just go away. He owned up to wearing her clothes as a child; that freaked her out. I could appreciate her response on this one, and was glad she owned up to it. I figure that most siblings might react this way, especially with the clothes issue.

The second family? Well, that was intriguing. Seems the only one who’s really come along was Kim Kardashian (whom I’ve always liked, even if others have tried to beat her down), and she came along because of someone I’ve never liked but have to give him his props on this one, her husband Kanye West, who said to her “I would never be happy if I couldn’t be myself.” The one he thought might be the most supportive was Khloe, and she seems to be the one with the most problems in dealing with it.

But the person who came off the worst in my opinion? Kris Jenner, the architect of the entire Kardashian franchise, the one who used to kind of berate him and beat him up here and there on the show (which I never saw an episode of but used to see clips here and there) decided to give a “no comment” when asked for a statement. Come on; her entire life has been commenting on things, living her life in the public, even having a talk show for a short period of time, and she couldn’t deign to give a comment? Is she that ashamed, or is it that she couldn’t give one because she wasn’t going to get any money from it? Sheesh!

Still, Bruce was gracious to each and every one of them, and you could tell that those were the people he was worried about the most, even more than himself. Class!

4. The thing about sex and sexuality came up a few times in the interview, and Bruce was probably more comfortable with it than most of us were. My issue with it is that I’ve never fully understood why people immediately feel like all these things have to do with is sex. I mean, when people think of homosexuals they immediately start thinking about how they have sex rather than what kind of people they are. I’ll admit to not knowing a lot about transgendered people but the thing furthest from my mind is their sexual preferences.

Even with that, Bruce started out saying he was heterosexual, but asked how he’d see himself after the sex change he looked thoughtful at first, then said he was 65 years old, wasn’t thinking about relationships at this point in his life and just wanted to be himself; I thought that was enough. It was also gracious of him to allow Diane Sawyer and the rest of us to refer to “him”, just to keep things going smoothly.

5. No one but Diane Sawyer could have done this interview. I was thinking that as we got close to the end. I couldn’t think of a single male interviewer other than Larry King who might have been able to pull this off, but I don’t think Larry would have asked the types of questions or gone into the type of research Diane did.

Also, I tried to think of which women interviewers who had enough cachet to handle this and Diane Sawyer is pretty much the only one. But there would have been some close contenders. I think Katie Couric would have done pretty well with it, possibly Meredith Vieira. Barbara Walters… nope. Lesley Stahl; not sure she’d have had the compassion to do it. Oprah… nope, I think she’d have injected more of herself into this one than Sawyer did, based on her interview with Lance Armstrong. If this was even 10 years ago I’d have said Connie Chung or Deborah Roberts could have pulled it off. But Diane Sawyer was perfect; great job!

That’s all I have. Actually, I have lots more, but this is long enough. If you saw it what were your thoughts on it all?  

Fair Fun And Fair Wishes Reviewed…

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Between my back pain and the heat, my wife and I still had a very good time at the New York State Fair this year. Although walking was a chore, we got around to see what we wanted to see, even if I didn’t get my chance to touch a pig this year, which was my goal last year as well, because it was the day of the horse, and horses and I don’t get along.

20140830_122745 Before I get into my thoughts and what I did at the Fair, I’d like to quickly review a post I wrote in April regarding 5 things I wish would change at the Fair and whether any of them happened. Let’s see…

1. There was one major thing at the Fair that was pretty neat. A company called Victory Lifts, the people who created chairs that could carry people up and down the steps when they couldn’t walk it safely anymore came up with something else that was pretty cool that they exhibited. It’s a clear small elevator that’s either made of plastic or fiberglass, and though you’d have to stand in it instead of sitting down, it will get you upstairs much quicker and you can carry things easier also. They were giving kids free rides up and down, though it didn’t take them too far up since they had to cap its size but I could see the benefits of this bad boy. I could only see one negative, that being what if it stopped and left you somewhere in the middle, as there was no alarm pad. However, there might be one that they didn’t need at the Fair; I don’t really know. Still, it was cool and something new.

20140830_1305432. There was a greater mix of music this year, even if I missed it all. Having Journey and Cheap Trick playing is a major coup as far as I’m concerned, and my Twitter feed blew up when Bell Biv Devoe played at Chevy Court; yup, I was feeling some jealousy as that’s the day I went, but my back just couldn’t handle it all. Attendance was up throughout the Fair, and that was before Monday’s dollar deal.

3. I still don’t know if they advertised the animals all that well, although I wasn’t in town to go any earlier than the final Saturday. I do know that the program we got when we went through the gate didn’t mention any special events, and the only thing I saw while walking around was calf birthing… no thanks! lol

20140830_131327(0)4. I missed the Dairy building this year and it wasn’t until hours later when I was at home that I remembered it; oy! I still don’t know what the butter sculpture was; now that’s a shame. I liked the flower displays this year in the Horticulture building but I still wanted to see more; maybe I’m just greedy.

5. There were some basketball players there on Saturday but I didn’t know any of them; that’s sad. I know that there were some celebrities who showed up this year, one being this lady from the Food Network (I don’t know who she is) but otherwise, my request for more New York celebs wasn’t met I don’t believe. I think this would be a very wise move… maybe next year.

20140830_132041General impressions… it was hot! lol Actually, it’s pretty amazing that central New York is home to many of the fried “whatevers” that were everywhere this year. This included the one and only Twinkie stuffed with a Twix bar and wrapped in bacon that there was no way I was trying this year. One thing I’ve learned is that every booth offering these types of things has their own batter for frying them in and last year when I tried something I was greatly disappointed because of that fact. Still, I almost pulled the trigger on the Oreo sandwich with the Reese’s peanut butter cup in the middle, but instead stuck with getting an apple dumpling with a scoop of ice cream, since I missed out on that last year.

20140830_122804I loved this year’s sand sculpture in the Center of Progress building, all about Dr. Seuss and his many characters, and think it was one of the best ever. Maybe if I could have gotten that back massage I’d have been better off but there was a long waiting list both there and in the building with the quilts and such (what is the name of that building anyway?) and I didn’t want to wait for any of it. If there was one disappointment it was in the corner where fudge has always been sold and where they were always making more, which I always enjoyed seeing, but this year they were just selling and not making and maybe I got there late overall because they didn’t have much to sell. So, for the first time in maybe 10 years I didn’t get any fudge, which made my wife happy.

20140830_131609As always I loved seeing the quilts and the images, but I missed out on the trains, if they had them. I also skipped the dinosaur exhibit but overheard a guy telling his son that he’d make sure the dinosaurs didn’t eat him as the boy was pulling away and crying; nope, that kid wasn’t going in there. My wife walked through all the tents selling stuff and walked through the Indian Village at the beginning, but I didn’t know there was supposed to be a new look to the Midway until I got home and, sad to say, we missed it. No rides for me ever, but this year there was one where two people got into a ball and were slingshot into the air, like a reverse bungee, and I have to admit that was pretty cool to see but my back would have broken; sigh…

We made it almost 2 1/2 hours before we decided to head out before it really got hot and crowded, but I’ll just say there was plenty to see and leave it at that; ouch! I hope next year I’m home for the early part of the Fair because I must touch that pig, or something else exotic… and I don’t mean those nasty butterflies! :-) Good job NY Fair people!  

Local Traveling Art Shows

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A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited to go to an art show at the Spark Contemporary Art Space at 1005 E Fayette St, which just happens to be across the street from Collins Barber Shop, where I’ve been going for haircuts for almost 39 years; small world. One of the pictures below will show what it looks like on the outside; very cool.

20140613_201833The guy who set it up and invited me was Isaac Bidwell, who I’ve interviewed twice on this blog, who’s an artist in his own right, and had a few pieces he was exhibiting at this show. It cost $5 to get in, and he was telling me that they do these art shows every couple of months in different locations, always with a different theme.

The theme on this particular night was art talking about the 1980’s, a period I know well, although I’ll admit that there were a few pieces I didn’t understand or didn’t get right. For instance, one picture I thought was supposed to be Howard Stern and was told it was Joey Ramone, who I’ll admit I didn’t know as well.

80s cartoonsMy favorite piece of the evening was by a young lady named Marjorie Countryman, who did a nice composite of 80’s cartoon characters, many of whom I knew from a different era but the overwhelming majority I didn’t know; and I thought I knew the 80’s. lol

There was also music. This guy named DJ Stay Gold did some interesting mixes of music. By that, I mean he would play the music of one song by a particular artist and over that he’d play the lyrics and singing of a different artist. I thought that was really cool, as I remembered something like that from the 80’s when a DJ somewhere in the country first mixed the voices of Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand from two different records on a song called You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and turned it into a hit. This guy was amazing to say the least.

20140613_200716For someone like me, one of the other benefits is seeing the types of people that show up for these types of shows. Tattoos are the norm these days, although I’m still stunned a little bit here and there when I see nice looking women with tattoos all over the place. I’m fascinated by it, and I got a picture of this one lady named Meghan who really intrigued me… with permission of course. :-) I have to admit that many of the people were more fascinating than some of the art.

I’m not sure just yet if there’s a central place to find out about upcoming shows but I’ll reach out to Isaac to see if there’s something and I’ll update this post with that information if I get it. I love being able to support local artists, and I hope that one lady, who I gave some encouragement to in showing her art, does so.  

5 Things I Wish Would Change At The NYS State Fair

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I’ve been going to the New York State Fair for decades. I’ve always had a good time, but over the last couple of years my wife and I have gone to the Fair and headed back home in less than two hours. At first I wondered what the problem was, but as I sat down to think about it I realized that we’re both bored with what we see.

20130901_111456_resized It’s not that we don’t like going, but I’ve gone at least 30 times over the years, and I’ve noticed how some things have changed since the first time I went, and not necessarily for the better. I also figure I’m probably not the only one who has some issues with the Fair. So I thought that I would spend some time listing five things I wish would change to maybe make things feel a little bit more fresh and festive.

1. Let’s get some new things for the Center of Progress building. Back in the day, you used to go to the Center of Progress building knowing that you were going to see some new technology along with some favorites such as the sand sculpture, the fudge in the corner, and of course all the government and special interest group booths. Last year they finally had something new, and yet it was something old, that being recliners that massaged your entire body; all of them hurt me in some way. Since Syracuse is trying to publicize itself as a technology center, it would be cool if some of that newer technology or newer products found a place in the building, and maybe move a lot of the things such as candy and peanuts somewhere else.

2. Someone’s got to say it, so it might as well be me. When it Syracuse suddenly become a country town? From my perspective it seems that the majority of the Grandstand major concerts every year are either country acts or teenybopper acts, and I can’t even remember the last time I went to a performance of anything. There needs to be more diversity in the major acts, and I’m of the opinion that people will pay more money for some performers who might not normally play for smaller crowds but might be willing to come play at an outdoor venue. I remember some major acts that used to come play in the 80s, so someone has to be willing to come play now.

3. Put more effort into advertising which animals are going to be on display on which days. The last couple years have been disappointing to me, and that’s saying something because I usually don’t like animals to begin with. However, I did try to go see the llamas and the sheep, and some other things I can’t remember right now, only to be told that they were displayed in the first couple of days and then sent away to bring in different animals that were more common. Maybe there’s a schedule posted somewhere, since those who display the animals obviously know when to bring them, but I don’t know how to find it and I can’t be the only one.

Mitch Touches A Cow4. Find a way to boost the energy both in the dairy building and the horticulture building. The butter sculpture is always pretty good, but the displays and booths in the building leave a lot to be desired, especially for us non-milk drinkers. And some of what I have seen in the horticulture building over the last couple years has been pretty boring and lackluster, and it has to take more than people being able to spend a dollar for a baked potato to really get our juices going.

5. Aren’t we New York? I’m of the opinion that over the course of 12 days there should be at least two days where there’s some kind of “wow” factor. Maybe it’s famous actors who were originally from the Central New York area; maybe it’s famous athletes who were originally from central New York, or played for Syracuse University. I think it would be great to bring in people like that, or even other famous people, to spend three or four hours somewhere signing autographs and taking pictures with the fairgoers. And if you advertise it far enough in advance, you’d probably get some amazing crowds and you’d give the public something that they’re not going to get at any other state fair in the country.

That’s what I have for now. Does anyone else have any ideas that they think would help to stimulate more interest and more fun at the New York State Fair?  

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