Entertainment

A is Everywhere: An Ode to Pretty Little Liars

7 years. 20 days. That’s how long the television show, Pretty Little Liars, which airs its 2 hour series finale tonight at 8 p.m. ET will have been on the air for. I wrote about “PLL” once before, but it didn’t seem right to let today slip away without saying a proper goodbye to a show that has been a part of my life for over the last 6 years.

I watched Pretty Little Liars for the last 6 years and 3 months. In that time my life has changed tremendously. In a way, I like to think that PLL brought about some of that change. Truly it did though. It brought initial exposure to situations I needed to see to help me accept myself and for that I am eternally grateful. It goes beyond that too. I’m thankful for Pretty Little Liars for a lot of reasons and at this point it’s necessary to share them.

So here goes to the show full of secrets and lies:

Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the headshakes. Thanks for the eyerolls. Thanks for the screams. Thanks for the scares. Thanks for the shocks. Thanks for the excitement. Thanks for the feels. Thanks for the smiles. Thanks for the crazy. Thanks for the madness. Thanks for pushing boundaries. Thanks for the music. Thanks for the nights spent watching with my two friends and the pizza orders, snacks, Hefty Hanna cookies, “Do you have a fork?”, and numerous other laughs and memories. Thanks for the pumpkin decoration idea. Thanks for the days spent trying to figure out the mystery of A’s identity and who killed who. Thanks to Warner Brothers for housing the show and Rosewood for existing during my first trip to California so I could see where all the magic happened. Thanks to Marlene for your creativity and to the rest of the producers, writers, and directors for making this show possible. Thanks to Troian, Shay, Ashley, Lucy, Sasha, Janel, Ian, Tyler, Keegan, Laura, Holly, Chad, Lesley, Nolan, Nia, Lindsey, Tammin, Andrea, Torrey, Drew, Brendan, Cody, Brant, and all the other stars and guest stars of this show for telling this story so well, for introducing me to cool things along the way like LCD Soundsystem, alt-J, Suits, tumblr, Amoeba Records, Crumbs, “Crave You”, Spring Breakers, Dimepiece, All Saints and the Virginia Beer Company to name a few, and for sharing a small part of your lives along the way. Thanks to the rest of the crew for doing all the small things to make one big incredible thing. Thanks for crazy story lines and hilarious one-liners. Thanks for the memorable scenes. Thanks for the tweets and being a social media game-changer. Thanks for the Season 1 binge watch. Thanks for the Halloween costume. Thanks for the coffee mug and key chain. Thanks for never wearing winter coats except in that one Christmas episode. Speaking of, thanks for the Christmas episode, the Halloween episodes, and the Noir episode. They were all special ones. Thanks for making Toby A so we were able to have the moment where Owen was proud of himself for calling it the first time he watched the show. Thanks for the hashtags. Thanks for the drama. Thanks for creepy Cousin Nate. Thanks for “Bitch can see!”. Thanks for “This next song goes out to Hanna from your best friend A! “I Don’t Need You Anymore””, or something like that (still my favorite moment of the show)? Thanks for the ships like Spoby, Haleb, Ezria, Paily, Emaya, Emison (Emily’s really had the most), and most importantly SPARIA! Also most importantly thanks to Sara Shepherd for your creativity, for your books, and bringing this world of a small town on the Philadelphia Main Line to life. Thanks Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Aria Montgomery, and Emily Fields for being the OG liars through thick and thin from Seasons 1-7. Thanks to Alison DiLaurentis for dying, but not really. And finally, thanks to A and everyone who was A (and A.D.!) because without you none of this craziness would exist even though you’re all creepy stalkers. Most of all thanks for being my favorite TV show for the last 6 years and 3 months.

To quote Spencer, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” That’s what tonight will be for me, but it’s undoubtedly time to move on for everyone. Yet I know many people out there, fans, cast, crew, and creators alike will always hold a piece of Rosewood in their hearts, me included and we all know that regardless of the show ending, A is everywhere. Goodbye Pretty Little Liars. Thank you for everything.

 

It’s Morphin’ Time

If you saw my tweets recently, you could’ve made a good guess that this blog post was coming. Yesterday I saw the much anticipated Power Rangers movie. If you grew up in the 90’s like I did, you probably watched or at least knew about the Power Rangers. They were all the rage back then.

Power Rangers (TV) was a TV series created by Haim Saban about teenage superheros that defended Earth against monsters and creatures who tried to threaten their town and their planet. The rangers were recruited by the leader Zordon. Becoming a ranger gave each teen special powers that allowed them to fight those that threatened Earth. Sometimes that wasn’t even enough to defeat the beasts. When that happened, the rangers utilized vehicles called Zords that were based off of prehistoric animals to help them win battles. The Zords could also come together to create a giant Megazord when necessary. The original TV series used battle footage from a similar Japanese TV series called Super Sentai. The only difference was that the American series used American actors for parts of the show when the Rangers weren’t in battle and voiced over the other parts in English using the American actors.

The movie which was released last weekend was based off the original TV series but set in modern time. It was written by John Gatins and directed by Dean Israelite. It stars relative newcomers Dacre Montgomery as Jason (Red Ranger), Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink Ranger), RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue Ranger), Becky G as Trini (Yellow Ranger), and Ludi Lin as Zack (Black Ranger).

Power Rangers (Film) tells the story of the formation of the rangers and ends in one giant battle with villain and former ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) and her minion Goldar. Rita, who was banished to the bottom of the sea from a meteor strike ordered by Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Red Ranger, comes back to life when her body is discovered while simultaneously the group of teenagers discover the power coins (the Rangers’ power source) in the mountains of their hometown Angel Grove. Zordon of course returns as well once the Rangers discover his underground spaceship/base. He is still the commander/go-to guy of the Power Rangers. (Fun Fact: Bryan Cranston, who plays Zordon, actually did voice overs for the original series and the Blue Ranger, Billy Cranston, was named for him.) Zordon’s assistant, the robot Alpha-5 (Bill Hader), returns as well.

The movie does something the TV show failed to do though. It goes deeper. The film really explores the rangers on an individual level. Each teenager has depth and a story to contribute to the overall concept of the film which is the whole Power Rangers/teenage superhero thing. That’s why I consider this new film to be based off the old series and not a remake of it. The Power Rangers concept in total is re-imagined in this new film.

I saw the Power Rangers preview trailer a few months ago without knowledge of the film at all. I never thought I’d be interested in seeing the Power Rangers again, but the trailer made the film look so good that I couldn’t help but want to see it, especially as a former fan. Luckily I didn’t have to wait that long. I was anticipating the release for the last month or so though.

(WARNING: Some spoilers in here.) My first impression of the film gave it this sort of Breakfast Club vibe with a few of the kids meeting/recognizing each other in Saturday detention that they all received for different reasons contributing to each characters’ story lines. As the film went on though, it lost that feeling and created this new age Power Rangers that was better than the original. It was as if the story of the Power Rangers grew up while at the same time so did its fans. I thought this new movie represented exactly where the Power Rangers needed to be in this day and age from the setting, to the characters, and to the characters’ stories, which provided brief moments relevant for those on the autism spectrum as well as for members of the LGBT community that didn’t overshadow the main story. It also provided just the right amount of nostalgia for fans of the original series with the brief incorporation of the Power Rangers theme song and the cameo appearance by Amy Jo Johnson (the former Pink Ranger/Kimberly) and Jason David Frank (the former Green Ranger/Tommy). It’s a movie that people of my generation who were fans can bring their kids to see and both can share in this new yet old experience together.

According to what I’ve read, there’s supposed to be 6 Power Ranger films so the story and story lines will obviously develop much further if the first movie is any indication. The end of Power Rangers also teases the next film in such a way that fills fans with anticipation. I know I’m already ready for the second installment in this new series. I might just have to satisfy my Power Rangers craving by seeing this movie again. It was that good and even better than I expected! If you were a Power Rangers fan and you haven’t seen this movie yet, go see it! I promise you’ll love it.

It Was 1980 Something

Since 2013 my Wednesday nights during the fall, winter, and spring usually consist of watching TV comedy. I grew up watching half hour family comedy TV shows like Home Improvement, Boy Meets World, and Full House, but in high school I fell out of the whole comedy phase and opted for shows like drama, The OC and reality drama, Laguna Beach. In 2013, there was a new show to premiere on ABC that caught my attention and finally returned me to my TV watching roots. It was called The Goldbergs and it’s currently in its 4th season on prime time TV.

The cool thing about The Goldbergs is that the sitcom is based on the life of series creator, Adam F. Goldberg. It stars comedians Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jeff Garlin, young actors Hayley Orrantia, Troy Gentile, and Sean Giambrone, and acting legend George Segal. Comedian Patton Oswalt even narrates the episodes.

The show is narrated through the voice of an older Adam Goldberg (Oswalt) who recaps stories of his life as a junior high/high school student growing up in Jenkintown, PA, a small suburb of Philadelphia, in the 1980’s with his mom, Beverly (McLendon-Covey), dad, Murray (Garlin), older sister, Erica (Orrantia), and older brother, Barry (Gentile). Adam’s grandpa, “Pops” (Segal), also frequents the Goldberg house. The Goldberg family is far from average and Adam (Giambrone) captures their antics through the lens of his video camera. His mother is nicknamed the “Smother” because she overwhelms her children with love and affection to the point where she constantly invades their lives. His father who works as a furniture salesman is more of a realist when it comes to his kids and sees them for the “morons” they really are as he often criticizes them while sitting on his favorite chair in his underwear in front of the TV. Erica is the cool older high school sister who has a knack for rebellion as long as she’s with her best friend Lainey (Alyson Michalka) (In real life Adam actually has an older brother named Eric, but for the sake of good TV Eric was turned into a girl to add another dimension to the story line.). Barry is the overconfident jock and goofball of the family who believes he’s also a rapper named Big Tasty. He also tends to pick on Adam the most, as big brothers usually do, but also because Adam is a nerd who is fascinated by TV and movie pop culture of the 1980’s.

Each episode usually features a new story that ends with some sort of lesson or nice family moment, recreating that typical family TV sitcom feel. Then right before the end of the episode there’s a dedication to something from the episode that was actually a part of creator Adam F. Goldberg’s life along with a real home movie video clip showcasing that thing. Although there has been plenty of good ones, last week’s episode had the coolest dedication I remember seeing so far. It was my favorite for sure. Part of the episode was about the relationship between Adam and his best friend/neighbor from across the street, Chad Kremp. The dedication at the end was to the real Chad Kremp and featured a home movie clip of Chad along with a side by side clip of the TV show Chad (Jacob Hopkins) acting out the same piece from the real clip. Then it flashed to a frame from the show of the actor who played Chad’s dad in the episode and added an arrow to the actor with the words “Chad Kremp – my real life best friend” (or something like that). It was the coolest dedication ever. At least I thought it was super cool to honor your childhood/real-life best friend that way, but there’s probably other cool dedications I’m forgetting too.

After four seasons, the long-term story line has progressed. New characters have appeared. A few others have left, but in my opinion the show has become way funnier than it was when it first started. At this point, it seems like I’m laughing about something on the show every week. The actors have really fallen into their roles and have brought out the best in their characters. It’s been so good that after last week’s dedication to Chad Kremp, I really thought it was time to write a blog about this show.

If you have yet to see an episode, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you watched the first season or two and have stopped watching, you really need to check it out again. In case you want to, it’s now on Wednesday nights on ABC at 8:30 p.m. It’s honestly gotten better. I swear. The Goldbergs really is the perfect family comedy and it brings back that 80’s nostalgia for those who grew up in the 80’s like the Goldberg kids. That’s probably why the show is already into it’s 4th season. It hasn’t been picked up for a 5th season yet but I’d say the odds are pretty good that it will stay on the air. After all, how will we get to reminisce about 1980 something?

Why Are There No New Christmas Songs?

Christmas time is unique in that it’s the only time of year with designated songs describing the season. I mean I guess you can make a case for Halloween songs, but when it comes to Christmas songs, they can’t really compete. Christmas music is played way more frequently. The thing about Christmas music though is that every year radio stations, stores, malls, and other entities play the same songs on repeat. Unlike music in general, you don’t often hear new songs when it comes to Christmas ones. But why?

It’s not that new songs aren’t being created. Every year there’s probably several new Christmas songs, but apparently it’s difficult to make one popular to the masses. More often you’ll hear modern artists covering traditional Christmas music rather than creating new songs. In fact, the most recent successful Christmas song came out 22 years ago. It was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Most of you know the song too. It’s now a holiday staple. You can make an argument for others though. *NSYNC’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” came out in 1998. Then there’s Britney Spears’s “My Only Wish” which was released in 1995.You might hear the *NSYNC song throughout the holidays, but it’s rare to hear the Britney one. Mariah still beats them both.

There’s been a couple of artists who have tried to put out a modern Christmas song in more recent years like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and Meghan Trainor. I bet you didn’t know that unless you’re a huge fan of a particular artist because none of their songs were that successful. I honestly don’t know what their holiday songs are called or how they go. Do you? That’s enough proof to show their lack of success.

I had a few Christmas songs that I listened to during high school and college that were original songs. Those songs weren’t by bands or artists you’d hear on mainstream radio though. A lot of the songs had sad themes too, which aren’t people’s favorite thing to listen to around the holidays (take “Christmas Shoes” for example). One of my favorites was “Forget December” by Something Corporate. The songs was released in 2003 as part of the album A Santa Cause: It’s a Punk Rock Christmas, an album that was released to benefit The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in which punk bands created original holiday songs or recorded covers of Christmas classics. The first volume was released in 2003 and a second was released in 2006 to benefit a different charity (Cure Autism Now). A decent portion of those songs were on my Christmas playlist over the years.

Now whether it’s lack of Christmas spirit, a desire for something new, or a combo of both reasons, I don’t listen to Christmas music if I don’t have to (because when you go shopping near the holidays you’re bound to hear it). I haven’t for the last 4-5 years. I haven’t been excited to hear it either, even my old favorite songs. I think the reason for that is because I don’t listen to the same bands that I listened to in high school and college. In general Christmas and its music isn’t as exciting anymore, but especially since modern Christmas music really isn’t a thing. We’re mostly still listening to music that came out decades ago.

Last year, LCD Soundsystem released an original Christmas song, “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. I listened to it, but I wished it was more upbeat like the songs “Dance Yrself Clean” or “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”. It sounded more like “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” and I just wasn’t feeling it at the time (I do like the song “New York I Love You….” though). I listened to it again last month and I liked it a little better probably due to my renewed love of LCD. That’s the only band I can think of that I like that released an original Christmas song in the past few years.

If more indie pop/rock bands released some Christmas songs, I might actually find a renewed taste for Christmas music. It would also be pretty sweet if an electronic artist did one too. I can imagine that would create an energetic Christmas vibe. I doubt any of those songs would make it to mainstream listeners though (not that I’d be complaining) so take that as you will.

Maybe one of the closest things to a Christmas song I’ve enjoyed in the last 4-5 years was a combination of a classic Christmas song and a modern day hit that debuted on the TV show The Real O’Neals last Tuesday. They performed O Holy Night and mashed it with Sia’s “The Greatest”. It was the coolest Christmas related musical piece I’ve heard in a while. It blended an old religious holiday ballad and a newly released non-Christmas single perfectly. It got me so hyped last week when they cut into the carol and started singing Sia. I’ve been promoting it ever since and I wish they recorded a full version.

Something like that gives me hope that maybe soon enough we’ll have more modern Christmas songs so we can stop listening to Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, or even Mariah Carey. I know many people may not want to, but I’ve never been part of the majority. Here’s a few newer-ish original Christmas songs to listen to if you’re looking for something more modern:

  1. Forget December -Something Corporate (2003)
  2. Yule Shoot Your Eye Out -Fall Out Boy (2003)
  3. I Won’t Be Home For Christmas -Blink-182 (2003)
  4. This Time of Year -The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (2003)
  5. Icicles -Punchline (2003)
  6. City Trucks -Paper Route (2006)
  7. My Christmas List -Simple Plan (2001)
  8. Right Where You Want Me To Be -A Day to Remember (2010)
  9. Christmas Will Break Your Heart -LCD Soundsystem (2015)
  10. Not Giving In -Rediscover (2006)
  11. The Christmas Song -Owl City (2008)
  12. Christmas Gifts -Foxes (2009)
  13. Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass -All Time Low (2011)
  14. The Lights and Buzz -Jack’s Mannequin (2005)
  15. Merry Frickin’ Christmas -Frickin’ A (2004)

Also here is the O Holy Night/Sia Mashup from The Real O’Neals.

The Soft Glow of Electric Sex Gleaming in the Window

Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition. From the tree, to Santa, to gift exchanges, each holiday tradition spans years and cultures. Year after year families engage in the same practices surrounding the holiday and holiday season. They might eat certain foods or partake in certain activities. One of those activities might be a tradition that started in 1997 thanks to the Turner Broadcasting Company. Every year since 1997 at least one of the company’s television networks have aired A Christmas Story for 24 hours straight, starting on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas Day.

The film, which was released in 1983, has become a Christmas classic and a favorite among many. It was based on Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and written by Shepherd along with director Bob Clark and Leigh Brown (Jean Shepherd is also the movie’s narrator). It stars a young Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a nine year old boy who dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. The story takes the audience through the Christmas season with Ralphie’s family and friends set in 1940’s Indiana and focuses on Ralphie’s quest for the greatest Christmas present ever despite warning from multiple sources that he’ll undoubtedly “shoot his eye out”.

The movie is family fun comedy all the way. I’m sure if you ask fans of the film, everyone will respond with a different answer for what their favorite part is because there are so many great scenes to choose from. Mine involves the infamous Leg Lamp, the “Major Award” that Ralphie’s father receives for winning a contest (the title of this post is a phrase from the film used to described the lamp). In the scene where it is speculated that Ralphie’s mom breaks the lamp out of her displeasure for it, the father and mother have a an argument that ends with Ralphie’s father deciding to glue it back together. On his way out the door to get glue he yells the phrase, “Not a finger!” and I laugh every single time. It’s the way actor Darren McGavin (Ralphie’s father) delivers the line that gets me, but it’s also because the statement seems indirect and unfinished. He clearly means not to touch the lamp, but instead of saying “Don’t lay a finger on it!”, he says the phrase “Not a finger!”. I love it.

When the film was released a week before Thanksgiving in 1983, it didn’t receive much success. Its popularity grew through television specials and home video release. The success of the film even allowed for a museum to be created in its honor. The house where the exterior scenes were shot for the film was purchased by an entrepreneur/fan of the film and converted into a museum comprised of re-created sets and props from the movie. It’s located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, the city where portions of the movie were filmed. It opened in 2006. Also, as of 2012, A Christmas Story is a part of the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, which preserves U.S. film heritage making its classic status pretty legit.

If you’ve never seen A Christmas Story, it’s about time you do. It airs for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas day. The start of the marathon begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on TBS. If it’s part of your Christmas traditions, then I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If it’s not feel free to add it in there along with baking Christmas cookies and decorating your tree. Or don’t make it a tradition at all and just watch it once or watch it randomly next June (To be honest, I’m sick of traditions and created a tradition where I try to do something new each Christmas). It’s funny and enjoyable regardless of its classic appeal so go check it out. I triple dog dare you.

 

I Got a Rock

Ghosts, goblins, werewolves, vampires, and monsters are synonymous with Halloween, but so is the Great Pumpkin, at least for Peanuts fans anyway. Much like the tradition of A Charlie Brown Christmas airing yearly on television around Christmas time, the television special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs before Halloween. Similarly to the annual Christmas special, the Halloween favorite is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, first aired in 1966 on CBS, where it continued to air annually through 2000. In 2001, ABC picked up the rights. It has aired on ABC ever since. It was the second Peanuts themed holiday special to air on television and stars all of the Peanuts favorites, Charlie Brown, Sally, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of the crew.

The legend of the Great Pumpkin is extremely similar to the story of Santa Claus and Linus is a true believer. According to him, every year on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the children. This special tells the story of Halloween with the Peanuts characters as well as Linus’s dedication to his belief in the Great Pumpkin by spending the night waiting for him in the “most sincere” pumpkin patch.

To me, this yearly story of the Great Pumpkin is even better than the Christmas special. I think it’s funnier and more unique, especially because of the concept of the Great Pumpkin. I always laugh to myself when I watch Charlie Brown trick-or-treat with his friends or when he completely misses kicking the football because Lucy pulls it out from under him. It’s those little moments that make the Halloween special a yearly treat for those that grew up watching it.

This year the 50th anniversary special airs on Wednesday night on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET. I’m stoked to see Linus convince Sally to spend Halloween with him waiting for the Great Pumpkin, watch Charlie Brown get rocks, and re-learn that you should never discuss religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin with anyone. I’m sure it will be as good as always for the 50th time.

How to Watch Sports

If you frequent my blog on any level, you’d know that most of my posts focus on one concrete subject and involve facts surrounding that subject. The subjects are related to music, television or film entertainment, or women’s soccer because let’s be real, I don’t often write about other sports. What I want to write about this week is more subjective than usual, but it pertains to all sports and specifically watching sports.

There are two ways to watch sports: in-person or on live stream via a television or the internet. If you’ve ever been to a sporting event, you’d know the experience is much different than watching from your couch, bed, a bar, etc. Seeing a game or match play out right in front of you while taking in the sights and sounds is an experience like no other. If you’re at a team sporting event and you’re rooting for the home team, you’re probably not alone. There are most likely thousands of others cheering on the team with you. You can usually be as loud as you want. At some sporting events, they even encourage fans to scream or be loud. You might be able to do that from your home too, but it doesn’t have the same effect.

Another important difference is the view you have. On a live stream of the match you can only see what the camera sees. You might not be getting a view of all the players or the whole field. You don’t get to watch pregame warmups or post-game interactions either. That being said sometimes the camera has a great view and can offer close-ups of plays and athletes you wouldn’t be able to see from your spot in the stands. It might be why some people prefer to watch games or matches from home.

Another reason why some people might prefer to watch from home is weather. Weather conditions can have a huge impact on outdoor sports. It also impacts the spectators. It can be extremely hot or extremely cold. It can snow or rain. It can even cause delays. In outdoor sports, it’s not always a perfect day or night for a game. You have to prepare accordingly if you attend and some people just enjoy the comfort of their own home better.

There’s also the money factor, which rules a lot of things in our lives. It can be expensive to see a live sporting event, especially championships or major tournaments and that’s if you can even get tickets at face value. It can be a big factor in whether someone watches from home or not. Add in your personal schedule and then you’ve got another dilemma. Sometimes people don’t have a choice in how they watch sports.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see many live sporting events. I’ve been to football, basketball, baseball, and hockey games. I’ve attended soccer matches, a golf tournament, and a skateboarding competition. I have my fair share of preferences on the way to watch sports. Sometimes I like watching from home, but sometimes I’m caught up in a sport that I just want to experience live.

On Friday night, I attended my second NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) match. I decided to go because it was the first ever home playoff match for the team I’ve followed since the league’s inception in 2013, the Washington Spirit, and because I had available time in my schedule. I like the complex where the Spirit play. It’s a great venue to watch soccer (venue might be another reason people like to attend or not attend live sports too) and I wanted to make a trip there this season. Plus, it was a playoff match. As any sports fan knows, playoffs are the best and most exciting time of any season.

The weather last weekend was terrible throughout the mid-atlantic region. Thursday through Sunday brought tons of rain. I hate rain when I have to be out in it for an extended period of time. I was bummed when I saw what I would have to deal with at the match. Add in that the Spirit had a disappointing final two weeks of the regular season and I was wondering if I made the right call to attend the match. I already committed though so I knew I had to brave through the elements and whatever outcome the match brought.

Friday night’s semifinal match between the Washington Spirit and the Chicago Red Stars was the best soccer match I’ve ever attended in my time of being a soccer fan. It misted the entire game, but it was cool enough that I was able to comfortably wear a hoodie with a light rain jacket the whole night and stay dry. The Spirit won in extra time when Franny Ordega scored a beautiful goal that resulted from a pure team effort in the 111th minute. Most importantly I saw my favorite soccer player score a goal in-person, in front of my own eyes.

Okay, I get it. You’re thinking it’s not a rare feat to see your favorite soccer player score a goal. It is when your favorite player is a defender though. Defenders just don’t score often. When they do, doves sing, according to Becky Sauerbrunn at least. It’s not a big secret by any means, but I don’t think I’ve ever said it on here before. My favorite soccer player is Ali Krieger. She’s a defender. More specifically, she’s a right outside back for the Spirit and for the USWNT. In her national team career, she’s scored 1 goal and a pretty important PK that lead to one of the biggest surges in women’s soccer since 1999 (I didn’t even see this one on livestream). Since her career with the Spirit began in 2013, she’s scored about 1 goal per season. That’s about 4 professional goals since I started paying attention to her. Out of those 4 goals, I’ve never seen any in-person. I missed 3 of them totally because I wasn’t able to watch those matches. On the goal I did see, I didn’t even realize she was the one who scored until the replay happened. Seeing her put one in the back of the net Friday night was everything. I wasn’t even sure how the sequence was started until I saw the replay later that night (I was both watching and chatting to a friend who also attended). It was beautiful header off a ball into the box by fellow defender and CANWNT player, Shelina Zadorsky, that started from a play beginning with a corner kick taken by Krieger herself. I just remember seeing the ball float in off a kick from about halfway between the goal and mid-field, meet Krieger’s head, and careen into the back netting.

It was one of my favorite live sports moments that I’ve seen in-person in a while. I’ve seen plenty of good ones over the years too like a game winning triple overtime goal and ones that clinched series’ victories. I’ve never seen a team win a championship in front of my eyes however. That’ll be for another time.  This one was special though. It was hard to come by given the situation and I won’t forget it. It made me realize how special it is to see a sporting event live. Standing in the mist or rain or whatever element was worth it, so was the travel distance, the price (it wasn’t too expensive), and the slight traffic. It all was. So I’m urging you. If you’re one of those people who like to watch from home, remember there are some irreplaceable moments in sports and seeing them in front of your own eyes every once in a while is what makes being a sports fan that more special. Put aside your preferences. Make time. Spend the money. It’s worth it to go to a game.

The Film Playlist: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Sorry for the delay in blog posting. I don’t think I have avid readers so this is probably just an apology to myself. I had this post planned for the last week but I had trouble finding time to get it done. It required a little more effort than usual. I had to re-watch a film I haven’t seen in a while so I could properly add another film to The Film Playlist. It’s called Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Sounds like a solid fit for The Film Playlist right? Well I should warn you that looks can be deceiving if you weren’t already aware.

The 2008 film stars Michael Cera as Nick and Kat Dennings as Norah. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The adapted screenplay was written by Lorene Scafaria and directed by Peter Sollett.

The movie is less about music than its title indicates. Of course that’s not really a criteria for The Film Playlist, but in this case, a greater music focus might have saved the film. In the movie, Nick, a high school senior, was recently dumped by his girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena), a girl who he continually makes mix tapes for regardless of their standing. Norah, another senior who goes to school with Tris and whose father owns a prominent recording studio in New York, has a similar love for music like Nick. When Tris discards Nick’s failed mix tape attempts, Norah takes the tapes for herself because she claims Nick makes the best mix tapes. Norah has never met Nick though.

When word gets out that the elusive indie band Where’s Fluffy? will be playing a secret show in the city after hours that night, individually Nick, Norah, Tris, and their crews decide they need to find it and attend the show. Nick and his band The Jerk-Offs (an all gay band aside from Nick) have a gig to play in the city too, which initially Nick plans on skipping to revel in his own single life misery. The Where’s Fluffy? announcement changes his mind though.

At the show Nick sees Tris in the crowd with another guy, Gary, and is even more shaken up over his ex. Norah also attends with her best friend Caroline. After Caroline bails on Norah to try to pick up guys, Tris confronts Norah about her loner status. Norah fires back by telling her that she came with her boyfriend. She then pretends Nick is her boyfriend after finding him cute while he performed without knowing Nick is Tris’s ex Nick and kisses him in front of Tris igniting the first flame between Nick and herself. From there, the night turns into an epic adventure throughout New York City in a quest to find the Where’s Fluffy? show and locate a drunken Caroline while going through the ups and downs of teenage romance.

The film is more of a teen flick than any other film on the playlist so far. Bandslam could be considered the same but has a much deeper story than this movie and much more notable music. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist has high school appeal and creates a dream reality for any indie/alternative music crazed teenager.

The music in the film is purely indie. Some of the featured indie bands are somewhat obscure too. I’ve heard of a handful of the bands, but many haven’t reached the top of the indie scene. Some more notable ones are Modest Mouse, Vampire Weekend, Band of Horses, The National, The Submarines, and Rogue Wave. The film references The Cure but none of their music is featured.

I saw this film in theaters when it was first released. I liked it at the time, but still expected it to be better than it was. After watching it again, I feel the same way even though the music in the film is what I’m into. The characters don’t have depth. It’s funny at times, but has nothing that separates it from true comedy films. The plot is creative yet unoriginal. I feel like it has more to offer musically and theatrically.

Despite my critiques, this film is on the playlist. It’s kind of like that bubble song that you’ll put on your mix if it fits the time limit, but you wouldn’t be sad if it had to be cut. It also might be one that you’d skip from time to time, unless you’re really into indie teen love stories. So see this movie if you’re into that kind of thing, if the summary interested you, or if you solely want to indulge in all films involving music, otherwise you’re not missing much.

Three Strikes, You’re Out

Baseball, or America’s pastime, has been part of United States culture for a long time. Its origin dates back to the mid-18th century. By the late 1800’s and 1900’s baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of America and has grown to be a summer time favorite of sports fans throughout the nation.

If you played baseball growing up, chances are you might have played Little League, an organization that was founded in 1939 by Carl E. Stotz. Little League is one of the most popular and most recognized youth baseball leagues in the world. Every year since 1947 Little League honors the best Little League teams in the world by hosting a tournament called the Little League World Series in the town where it was founded, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

It’s not an easy road to Williamsport. First, All-Star teams are selected from each Little League to compete in district, sectional (in some states/countries), divisional, and regional tournaments. Currently, the Little League World Series features 16 teams (8 American and 8 International) of players ages 11-13 from various regions across the globe. The U.S. regions are comprised of New England (made up of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts), Mid-Atlantic (made up of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC), Great Lakes (made up of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin), Southeast (made up of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee), Midwest (made up of North/South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri), Southwest (made up of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas East and West), Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska), and West (made up of Northern and Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Hawaii). Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Europe and Africa, Asia-Pacific and Middle East, and Latin America are the international regions. With the long road to the Little League World Series making it to South Williamsport is an accomplishment for any team.

Once in Williamsport, the teams stay in dorms on the Little League complex. The players and coaches compound known as “The Grove” has been described as a little leaguer’s dream. It has a game room, pool, and all the food any kid would want. No one other than the players and coaches can go there either. The Little League complex in South Williamsport features more than just player dorms. There are two Little League stadiums, Volunteer Stadium, which opened in 2001 when the World Series expanded to include 16 teams instead of just 8, and the legendary Howard J. Lamade Stadium, which opened in 1959. Through the years Lamade has expanded and grown along with Little League Baseball. It went under an expansion in 1971, added lights in 1992 so night games could be played, and in 2006 the fences were moved back 20 ft to allow for more doubles and triples. The complex also features numerous practice fields and a museum dedicated to the past and present of Little League Baseball and Softball. During the week and half long tournament at the end of August, the players are treated like star athletes. They sign autographs and take photos with fans and receive media coverage from ESPN.

Since 1963 the ABC network (which is now in association with ESPN) has covered the Little League World Series. Until the late 80’s only the championship game was televised. Then slowly more games received coverage by ABC and ESPN. By 2007, all but one game was to air live on the networks. Now even the regional tournaments are getting major coverage. As of 2014, all regional tournament games can be streamed live online via ESPN3 with the exception of the Southeast and New England regional which are aired in full on regional networks affiliated with ESPN. The semifinals and final regional games are shown on the well-known sports network.

For those attending the Little League World Series, it never comes at a price. Parking and admission are free. The only time tickets are issued are for bigger games, like the championships or games where large crowds are expected (i.e. if a team within close driving distance like one from Pennsylvania makes it to Williamsport), but even then, the tickets are still free. They’re either distributed on a first come, first serve basis or in a random drawing.

I’ve attended the Little League World Series many times. Since it’s only an hour and a half drive from my home town, I attended annually from 2005-2012 and then once more in 2014. Typically my seat of choice came from bringing a soccer chair and setting it up on the first of the two hills that overlook Lamade Stadium. It’s standard practice for Little League fans to watch the game from either the hill or in the Stadium. The second hill only fills up for major games because it’s usually reserved for sliding down on cardboard, which is kind of a right of passage at the Little League World Series. During my first few trips to the Little League World Series I spent some serious time sliding on that hill. Before my first trip to South Williamsport, I watched the Little League World Series on TV so I knew what to expect when I saw that hill. Needless to say I was pumped to take my first slide on the short but steep slope. In addition to the hill, there’s a ton of other fun activities for guests like pin trading, merch shopping, sponsorship tents, and plenty of delicious and reasonably priced food. With all the activities as well as the games, the Little League World Series was something I looked forward to every summer after I attended for the first time.

This year’s Little League World Series will come to a close this Sunday, when two teams, one from the United States and one from an international region, meet for the championship. The championship game will air at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC. First a United States Champion and International Champion need to be crowned. Those games take place tomorrow and will both be aired on ABC as well. The International Championship will feature the East Seoul Little League from Seoul, South Korea and the Aguadulce Cabezera Little League from Aguadulce, Panama, which represent the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions, respectively. The game takes place at 12:30 p.m. ET at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. The United States Championship will go to either the Maine-Endwell Little League from Endwell, NY or the Goodlettsville Baseball Little League from Goodlettsville, Tennessee. The U.S. Championship starts at 3:30 p.m. ET and also takes place in Lamade Stadium.

For the players, parents, coaches, volunteers and spectators at the Little League World Series, it’s more than just baseball. Memories are made and stories unfold. For the players, the memories last a lifetime, as well as some of the relationships made between teammates or with other kids from all over the world. It’s an experience like no other. The rest who attend make their memories in other ways like sliding down the hill on a piece of cardboard, catching a foul ball, creating an environment for the players to have the best week ever, spending the day with their kid(s) or even watching their own kid hit a home run. It’s easy to see why the Little League World Series is a special place and a place that anyone who’s ever worn the Little League patch should visit.

We are infinite.

A few days ago the trailer for Disney’s 2017 live-action film, Beauty and the Beast premiered. The new film will star Emma Watson as Belle. Her brief appearance in the trailer made me yearn to watch an Emma Watson movie. Of course, I could have easily picked any of the eight Harry Potter films, but I was particularly in the mood for the movie adapted from my favorite book of all time, The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I first read the book as a high school junior. It was my favorite book before I even finished it. To this day, it is the only book to ever make me both laugh and cry. I related to it. I quoted it. I talked about it and I loved it.

While I was in college, it was announced that the book would be made into a movie. Despite the standard book to movie criticism, I was amped. I would check for updates on the film from time to time. I remember being intrigued when I found out Emma Watson was cast as Sam. Until that point, I only knew her as Hermione Granger. I found out when it would be filmed and that it was going to be filmed in Pittsburgh, the location where the story takes place. I even went to some filming locations in Pittsburgh while visiting to attend a hockey game about a year before the film was released (Doing this lead to the discovery of my favorite breakfast place in the Burgh. They make the best pancakes ever!).

The release was another thing. I’ve never been more excited for a movie release in my life and the release date happened to get pushed back. It was supposed to come out in the Spring of 2012 but was pushed to the fall of that year. In the time period between when it was filmed and when it was released, I would look up pre-screenings of the movie just to see if I would be able to attend (I didn’t though). When the movie came out in September 2012, it was limited. I wasn’t sure when it would be in theaters near me so I ended up driving to King of Prussia one Sunday to see it. I remember shaking with anticipation as the title sequence started. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the greatness of the book, but it did. It really did. Then I saw it three more times when it came into theaters close by.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky is also the author of the book. Having the book’s author as the writer of the adapted screenplay and director of the film was key in having it live up to expectations. The film stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev (Candace, Charlie’s sister), Johnny Simmons, Paul Rudd, Kate Walsh (Charlie’s Mom), and Dylan McDermott (Charlie’s Dad). Joan Cusack (Dr. Burton) even has a minor role in the film. Perks was also a box office success, more than doubling it’s budget.

As the film begins, Charlie (Lerman), a teenage boy, is seen typing a letter to an anonymous friend about starting high school the following day, something he is not anticipating. As a shy, quiet kid, he finds it difficult to fit in and make friends. He ends up connecting with his English teacher (Rudd) on the first day of school instead.

It isn’t until a school football game when he is invited to sit with a senior in his woodshop class named Patrick (Miller) and Patrick’s stepsister, Sam (Watson), that any spark of friendship begins. Upon meeting Sam at the game, Charlie finds her to be very attractive despite the fact that she is older and is starting to see someone. This also sets the tone for Charlie’s love interest throughout the movie. After homecoming, Charlie’s new friends bring him to one of their parties where he meets the rest of their crew, Mary Elizabeth (Whitman), Alice, and Bob, engages in drug related activity for the first time by eating a pot brownie, tells Sam about his best friend’s suicide the previous year, and catches Patrick hooking up with the football team’s star quarterback, Brad (Simmons), which he is asked to keep quiet about by Patrick so that Brad’s father wouldn’t find out. By the end of the party, the entire group accepts him as a wallflower and their newest friend. The rest of the film continues to take the audience through Charlie’s first year of high school and through his experiences of life, love, friendship, and growing up.

My description of the film makes it sound basic and simple, but it’s not. The film touches on so many relevant teen issues and also issues related to life in general such as drugs and alcohol, sex, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide. There’s first loves, kisses and relationships, fights, lessons in friendship, music, and of course the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s in every way a coming of age drama/comedy.

Despite the fact that The Perks of Being A Wallflower is indeed my favorite book ever (I’ve actually kept my copy beside my bed ever since I read it back in 2005), the movie isn’t my favorite movie of all time. It represents the book in the best way, but as any book to movie adaptation goes, it’s not exactly the same. The book has more detail and more back story (as most books often do). I also feel like the book version is more adult than the film version even though the story is about high school kids (let’s face it though, high school isn’t the media’s definition of teen). Perks was never a “teen” book so to speak. It was always found in the adult fiction section of every book store. However, a lot of teenagers were the ones reading the book. When making the film, Chbosky knew his audience would be teenagers so he made the film more teen friendly and view-able, opting for a PG-13 rating, rather than an R rated version (which would’ve been a better representation of the book I think). As a PG-13 movie lacking a large chunk of story detail, it is still the best book adaption I’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I recommend that you see it some time in your life, but I also recommend that you read the book first. Sure it’s not necessary, but it gives you a greater understanding of the film. Honestly, I could go on about this story. There’s so much I want to say like the fact that driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel at night and coming out to witness the grandeur of Pittsburgh is everything the story makes it out to be or that even though this film/story doesn’t surround music, it features some of the best music and mix tape references (“Asleep” by The Smiths, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (in the book only), or “Heroes” by David Bowie anyone?) or that I still relate quotes from the story to my life on a monthly basis. The truth is that it holds a special place in my heart and it’s relevant beyond my teenage years. It provides a message of hope and positivity even with referencing some dark topics. As an adult, I’ve known people who have accepted the love they thought they deserved because they each dated someone who wasn’t good enough for them. I’ve had enough experiences to know that things change, friends leave, and life doesn’t stop for anybody. As I chase my dreams, I try to remember that even if I don’t have the power to choose where I come from, I can still choose where I go from there. And of course, even as an adult, there are still times that in certain moments, I feel infinite.