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9/11 Reflections

Long may our American flags wave!

Sidebar: I originally wrote this for my September 11, 2009, blog post. 

On September 3, 2001, I flew from Chicago back to my home in the Houston area. I was glowing inside after a wonderful visit with my mom and reuniting with former classmates at my 30th high school reunion. Both O’Hare and Houston Intercontinental Airports were bustling with activity. I couldn’t wait to see my family once again and get back to the everyday routine of school and sports.

One week and one day later, the world changed forever. I had returned to the house that September 11th morning after riding my bike with my sons to their elementary school where the older one was in fourth grade and the younger in first. It was about 7:50 a.m. (C.S.T.), and, as was my habit, I turned on the small television in the kitchen. I was going to eat breakfast and watch “Little House on the Prairie” (please don’t judge me). Fortunately, the channel was on NBC instead of Hallmark.

My eye was immediately caught by huge billows of smoke streaming from a large building. Katie Couric was saying that it looked like a private plane might have hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. As I sat down and watched the drama unfold, a second plane came into view. Unbelievably, it roared into the other tower, tragically hitting even lower than the first one. It was obvious: America was under attack. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. The United States and Americans would never be the same.

Today is a somber day of remembrance for us. Even though I didn’t know anyone who perished in the attacks, I still feel sad for those who lost loved ones that horrific day. Today is a terrible anniversary for them and for our great nation.

THE definitive read on 9/11

Every September I read “102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers.” The authors, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, did meticulous research in resurrecting what happened inside the WTC that day. It’s a well-written, compelling read and a great reminder of what it was like that day for thousands who lived and died, and those who tried to rescue them. It also reminds me of those whose lives changed forever at the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania.

It took me several months after 9/11 before I remembered that I had flown a week before the attacks when airplanes were used as weapons of terrorism. I’m not a big fan of flying anyway, and I felt so shaken when I thought about what could have been if my reunion had been a week later. At the very least, I could’ve been stranded in between Chicago and Houston away from my family at a time when everyone needed to be surrounded by their loved ones.

This morning I thought about the people who died in the Twin Towers, as well as those who were in the Pentagon and on Flight 93. They will never be forgotten by us.

One-Word Wednesday

There was an unusual spectator at Tom Bass Park during last night’s disc golf mini.

Hawk!

After determining that plastic didn’t look tasty, the big bird flies away.

Mother’s Day Movie Treat: “Marvel’s The Avengers”

Saving the world by making a huge mess of NYC: The Avengers

Fair warning: If you’re an asthmatic like me, be sure to take a couple hits of your daily inhaler before you see “Marvel’s The Avengers.” Might want to pack the rescue inhaler, too. You’ll need all the breathing help you can muster for this excellent, action-packed movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

As usual, when it’s Mother’s Day, as it was yesterday, I take one for my testosterone team and pick the flick that my guys will enjoy (as in “Star Trek” in 2009, “Iron Man 2” in 2010, and “Thor” last year). So it was a no-brainer for me to opt for the new Avengers movie . . . especially since I really want to see it (probably because I’ve got a thing for Captain America).

Loki and Thor are brothers who don’t see eye to eye.

Long story short: We all loved it! Yes, there was an insane amount of destruction in New York City (clean up on aisles two, seven, 12 . . . oh, heck, all of them!), and too much bickering among the super heroes. But it was cool beans when they all worked together to defeat bad guy Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who was trying to rule Earth . . . with the help of some blasted (literally!) aliens. We especially liked the funny moments.

It was neat seeing the characters come together after having watched their individual movies (not that all of them had their own films, though). The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) added needed girl power, and Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) kept them all focused as a team. Kudos to Joss Whedon for co-writing and directing such a compelling flick.

Love Captain America’s updated suit.

After the movie (as always, be sure to stay through the credits), the four of us revealed who our favorite Avengers were. The Mister and our older son both picked Chris Hemsworth’s Thor (methinks the balding Mister is a tad jealous of those flowing, golden locks), while our younger son opted for Tony Stark/Iron Man (arrogantly well-played by Robert Downey Jr.). As for me, Captain America (Chris Evans) stole my heart—who doesn’t love a good-looking, patriotic guy?

I’m already looking forward to next Mother’s Day. Wonder if “Iron Man 3” will be in the theaters then?

“Iron Lady”: A Fascinating British History Lesson

Meryl Streep IS Margaret Thatcher!

If you’d like to learn more about British history, then “Iron Lady” is a must-see. If you want to watch the most-brilliant actress of her time—Meryl Streep—absolutely transform herself into Margaret Thatcher, then this is a don’t-miss biopic. Just don’t expect this movie to be nearly as good as “The King’s Speech”; it crawls along at a very slow pace.

Sidebar: Even though I recently railed against a certain American (Robert Downey Jr.) for (poorly) playing a Brit, I can’t imagine a British actress who would’ve done a better job than Streep. No American actress nails an accent better than her (watch “Sophie’s Choice”).

The “Iron Lady” tells the story of Thatcher’s rise and fall as Great Britain’s prime minister (1979-1990) using a narrative that switches between what she might be like now—slowly losing her mind to dementia—and pivotal past events. It’s a somewhat-confusing technique that only someone with as much talent as Streep can flawlessly pull off.

The young Margaret Thatcher ponders her political future.

Helping Streep to carry the movie is Alexandra Roach, who plays the younger version of Thatcher. She and Streep look remarkably alike, thanks to prosthetics, and both did a great job executing Thatcher’s distinctive diction.

Denis (Jim Broadbent) and Margaret Thatcher celebrate her victory.

Before seeing the film, I had no idea what Thatcher was like—what motivated her to run for political office (she was greatly influenced by her father, a grocer who also was mayor of their small town); how she placed public service above her family; how her humble upbringing helped her understand what ordinary Brits were going through; and how she had to make the tough, often-hated decisions as prime minister. She obviously was a very-complex woman.

I especially liked some of her quotes. One favorite was: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” Another, which was said in the movie by young Margaret when Denis Thatcher asked her to marry him, was: “One’s life must matter!”

Yes, Margaret Thatcher, your life has mattered! And now we can see the good and the bad of it in the “Iron Lady.”

One-Word Wednesday

These cute banks are sold at Target. (iPhone 4 with effects by Camera+ app)

Piggies!

Addition By Subtraction = Better Photography

My #2 son, running the 800 meters, is cropped for better effect.

Want to make your youth sports photos even better? Crop them in photo-editing software! Read all about it in today’s Photo Friday for PWCs.

“Lost”: Dead Is NOT Dead!

 

Beaten-up Ben

Beaten-up Ben

Wowie-kazowie! Gotta love a big, bad Ben-centric episode. Michael Emerson is such a great actor. He definitely showed a range of acting chops in last night’s episode, from creepy to SOB to awkward to downright soft-hearted. Ben is proving to be a complex, contradictory character. He’s a cold-blooded killer, easily blasting poor Caesar into tomorrow, who has a soft spot for moms and kids. Maybe it’s because his own mother died giving birth to him.

The episode was called “Dead Is Dead,” which was Ben’s explanation to Sun about what an anomaly John Locke was for now seeming to be alive. The born-again Locke firmly is in power on the island, much to control-freak Ben’s chagrin. The episode flashed through time so much that we actually were grateful (yes, I said grateful) for the commercials, so we could catch our breath. There was a lot to take in, a lot to ponder. Along with many funny comments by the #1 son. Here’s the recap:

In the past, Charles Widmore, then leader of the Others, is mad at the ageless Richard Alpert for saving young Ben Linus’ life. Richard pulls out the old “Jacob wanted it done” chestnut.

The #1 son asked, “Is Jacob the island?” Will we ever know?

Widmore goes to young Ben’s bed to chat him up. “You should be dead, Benjamin. But this island, it saved your life.” Looks like the tables will be turned when it’s Locke’s turn to be “saved” by the island in the future.

After Ben awkwardly tries to act nice with then-alive Caesar, we flash back to Ben in his 20s with such an awful hairpiece that, as the #1 son notes, he looks like Hitler without a mustache. Widmore has given Ben a task: To kill Danielle Rousseau, the only scientist left alive from those who washed ashore. Ben brandishes a pistol . . . and a baby cries. It’s baby Alex! That stops Ben in his tracks. He steals Alex and warns Rousseau to always run in the opposite direction when she hears whispers. Ah, yes, the murderous whispers!

Back to the present: Locke and Ben talk about why Ben killed Locke, but all John is interested in is an apology. When Ben shoots Caesar, he says, “Consider that my apology.” Ben, a handwritten note would have been so much kinder. Locke and Ben row to the main island. “Home sweet home,” says Ben. Ben tells Locke that he’s returned to the island to be judged by the smoke monster. Locke tells him that he’s really back to be judged for Alex’s death at the hands of Keamy, one of Widmore’s operatives.

Ben returns to the Others’ camp with the baby. Of course, Widmore is ticked off that Ben didn’t kill Rousseau or Alex. He’s such a grouch!

Back to the future: Ben and Locke run into Sun and Frank Lapidus, who are in Alex’s room in Ben’s house in desolate New Otherton. Lapidus leaves to return to the other survivors and the downed plane, while Sun goes with Ben and Locke to find Smokey.  

But first back to the past! An older Widmore is being escorted off the island to be whisked away via sub. Ben told him that he’s being banished, because he broke the rules—he kept leaving the island, and he fathered a child (no doubt Penny) with an outsider. Widmore, of course, is ticked off; no news flash there.

Widmore to Ben: “I’ll be seeing you, boy.”

And now the off-island future: Ben is calling Widmore via cell phone from a dock to let him know he’s about to pay Widmore back for having Alex killed. Yes, we see Penny on her and Desmond’s boat. We go back to Locke, Sun, and Ben in the past as they approach the temple where Smokey lives. An aside: They’re showing a temple on the first night of Passover. How appropriate!

Ben: “Sun, if you ever get off this island, find Desmond Hume and tell him I’m sorry.”

It was at that point I started hyperventilating a little. Did that SOB actually kill Penny? I don’t want Desmond’s true love, his constant, little Charlie’s mom to die! I was fixin’ to be sooo mad.

 

Ben shoots Desmond right in the old grocery bag!

Ben shoots Desmond right in the old grocery bag!

Then we flash back, and Ben shoots Desmond, who, fortunately, is holding a bag of groceries in front of him. Groceries that obviously include that bullet-stopping carton of milk. He then takes aim at Penny.

Ben: “Your father is a terrible human being.”

Ah, Ben, ever hear of the pot calling the kettle black? Your résumé ain’t exactly spotless.

Ben is about to shoot Penny, but he hesitates when little Charlie appears. That soft-hearted moment costs him, as Desmond jumps on him, beats the snot out of him, and tosses him into the water. Ben is a bloody mess, as he so often has been. That explains why he looked so bad on the flight back to the island.

Back to Ben and Locke in the temple. Ben admits to Locke that he was right, that he has returned to be judged for Alex’s death. Alone in the smoke chamber, Ben is surrounded by Smokey as pictures of Ben’s past with Alex intermingle with what the #1 son is sure is a cumulus cloud. Ben gets to hear himself say those awful, chilling words when Keamy had a gun to Alex’s head: “She’s not my daughter. She means nothing to me. So if you want to kill her, go ahead.” That look on Alex’s face when she’s “betrayed” by her father (who really thinks Widmore wouldn’t have Alex killed; he thought Keamy was bluffing); it’s heartbreaking.

 

Ghost Alex appears to Ben.

Ghost Alex appears to Ben.

And then . . . heeeeerrrreee’s, Alex! Yes, Ghost Alex appears to rough up dear, old dad. She tells him she knows he plans to really kill Locke and that he’s to follow every order Locke utters. The ultimate horrible consequence for someone who lives to be in control.

When Ben gets out of the chamber, Locke asks, “What happened?”

Ben, seeming incredulous: “It let me live.”

Yes, Ben gets to live to be a follower. Chilling stuff, my friends.

Harold Perrineau

Harold Perrineau

It’s not unusual

After “Lost,” we watched the premiere of “The Unusuals,” a crime thriller where all the NYPD officers have secrets. One of those cops is Harold Perrineau, who played Michael on “Lost.” It’s nice to see him in a different role. Amber Tamblyn, one of my favorite young actresses, also is part of the cast.

We enjoyed the show. The #1 son especially liked that we were watching the first-ever episode; we had to catch up with two seasons of “Lost” on dvd once we got hooked. We’re actually ahead of the game for a change!