Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

April 8, 2018 10:35pm
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This is a surprisingly difficult list to make!

It’s hard to believe that Marvel has put out eighteen superhero movies since we first got the Iron Man movie that set the stage back in 2008.

It’s equally hard to believe, though I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising, that while some were just fantastic, others were pretty lackluster. I definitely found myself shuffling a few movies back and forth as I worked my way through the list from 2008 to present, and I hope that Infinity War ends up just blowing everything else out of the water, but we’ll see. 😉

I’m not going to say a lot for every one of these, but here’s how my ranking ended up along with a few notes here and there…

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger – My all-time favorite Marvel movie to date – first it was Iron Man, but I just loved the sincerity that Chris Evans brings to this character, and his early chats with Dr. Erskine about being a good man I think really speak to the heart of who Captain America is.
  2. The Avengers – The BIG blockbuster, back when The Avengers were only half a dozen kids trying to save the world! After the other Phase 1 movies all teased up to forming a team of heroes, Joss Whedon did an incredible job of making this movie HUGE, from the reveal of the first heli-carrier to the battle for New York itself!
  3. Iron Man – I honestly really loved the first movie, despite not caring for the character as much as he’s evolved in the MCU, but just watching Iron Man walk out of that cave for the first time or fly into the night sky will always be awesome!
  4. Black Panther – Wonderful.
  5. Iron Man 2 – I don’t really go back and watch this much, but for the most part it really is one of the better Marvel movies. I never cared for how they re-cast War Machine, but the chemistry was good and it was still early enough in the MCU that seeing all of those robots fighting was pretty impressive!
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy – A much different Marvel movie than I had been expecting, but the Guardians are a much different brand of heroes, so that’s why I think it really worked. Curious to see how they mesh together with the Avengers in Infinity War.
  7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – This movie took a while to grow on me because I didn’t care for the Dr. Zola’s head in a computer act, but the rest is actually pretty solid. Plus we get to see more of Black Widow … why hasn’t she gotten her own movie yet???
  8. Thor: Ragnarok – I thought it was decent, but not as groundbreaking as a lot of other people thought it was.
  9. The Avengers: The Age of Ultron – The first Avengers movie was pretty tough to live up to, and adding more heroes to the mix was tricky. Plus, X-Men had already done Quicksilver way better, so that was a bit of a disappointment. 😛
  10. Thor – The rest of the movie really isn’t that bad, but I kind of hated Natalie Portman in it.
  11. Doctor Strange – So basically House gets in a bad car accident and ends up getting rewarded with superpowers for it. Huh.
  12. Ant-Man – No size-pun intended, but this kind of felt like half of a Marvel movie.
  13. Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2 – I feel like Mantis could’ve made this movie a whole lot shorter if she had really wanted to!
  14. Thor: The Dark World – *yawn*
  15. Captain America: Civil War – Can’t we all just get along?!
  16. Iron Man 3 – Me no like sad Tony Stark.
  17. The Incredible Hulk – I barely even remember this coming out. *shrug*
  18. Spider-Man: Homecoming – Tobey Macguire is my Spider-Man.

What’s your Top 3 look like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe???

movie thoughts … Black Panther

April 8, 2018 10:05pm
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I really ended up loving this movie, to the point where I think I would rank it among my all-time favorite Marvel movies, which is honestly a little harder to determine than you’d think!

Still, Top 5 ain’t nothing to be ashamed of in the MCU, as far as I’m concerned… 😉

A few of my own personal highlights:

  • Seeing Randall from This is Us as King T’Chaka’s brother was a bit of a surprise!
  • Having T’Challa’s sister in the Q from James Bond role was a little odd at first, but by the end surprisingly satisfying.
  • …and the Back to the Future reference was wonderful. 😉
  • Having to get stripped of the powers of the Black Panther every time someone challenges you for the throne seems like it would be a big pain in the ass…
  • And lastly, I ended up liking Agent Ross a lot more by the end of this movie … because I don’t know about you, but I really hated him by the end of Civil War.

It was kind of funny because I knew going into this movie that there were somehow multiple Black Panthers because I had seen a photo of the Erik Killmonger Funko Pop where he’s wearing the gold bedazzled panther suit and I was pretty sure that Killmonger wasn’t the name of the good version!

So it was certainly painful to see him reappear and steal the throne away from T’Challa, but of course deep down we knew that one way or another the real Black Panther would one day rise again. 😉

Another thing that I really liked about this movie was just how many inferences could be made to modern day politics if you wanted to look at it in that light, from debates about whether Wakanda’s resources should be used to help the rest of the world versus just keeping them for themselves to later wanting to weaponize those same resources to conquer the world. One quote stood out to me as more relevant than any – “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers…”

…remind you of any wall-loving presidential figure in particular???

I wasn’t sure where this one was going to fall and we ended up going to see it very much on a whim when my visiting sister-in-law offered to stay home after the kids went to bed so we could sneak out – it ended up being a very well done film with plenty of emotion, rich characters who put a new spin on the usual agents and soldiers that we typically see in superhero movies, and I think it did a great job of filling us in on the backstory for Black Panther so we’ve got a little more to go by next month when we see him and the rest of the gang team up against Thanos in Infinity War!

Granted, that’s one thing I would’ve liked to see – even if just in the end credits scene – was another teaser for Infinity War, aside from the quick vignette with Bucky. I was kind of disappointed that the actual trailer didn’t run before this movie because we seemed to get lots of other great superhero and generic action movies in the mix.

Great movie. It’s definitely earned all of its box office recordsincluding more than $1 BILLION in gross worldwide ticket sales?! Wakanda Forever. 😀

Car Buying Frustrations

April 5, 2018 12:41pm
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I know that most car salesmen are slimy and tricky and generally not to be trusted, but it’s still hard for me when I’m putting down tens of thousands of dollars for a car that we’ll likely drive for the next 5-10 years, only to then have to deal with being lied to along the way.

It happened to me not once, but twice in the last couple of days, to the point where I’m honestly just done with our current car buying expedition. I need a break from the treachery and the dishonesty.

ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS BUY A FREAKING CAR FOR THE PRICE THAT WE’D ALREADY AGREED ON!!!

We’re currently working on getting a van to replace our SUV whose lease will be up next month. It’s an upgrade that we desperately need, despite my not being crazy about driving a van, but hey, when you’ve got three kids and strollers and other miscellaneous stuff to haul around, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do…

So we decided that we want to get a Honda Odyssey. We’ve test driven a couple of different ones, and it’s far superior to other brands on the market. But the dealers are really digging in on the price, regardless of all of the research and bids that I’ve gathered around the area. I’d finally gotten one as low as I figured I was going to get, but when we packed up the entire family and went to the dealership, after moving all of the car seats over and doing another test drive…

They up and changed the price on us. By several thousand dollars.

Because apparently the “quote” I had been given didn’t account for the $1,600 worth of accessories that they’d installed on the car, nor did it account for them lowballing the hell out of our trade-in … which is admittedly a challenge because we’re over our miles on our lease, so we’re technically upside-down on its value.

Though for what it’s worth, I’m not looking for them to give me any positive equity on the thing – just looking for them to help soften the blow of the excess mileage by meeting me in the middle instead of paying the full amount back to Honda by just giving the car back.

Anyways… 😛

So dealer #1 tried to screw us – it was very much a bait and switch, and the salesman who had been super-friendly during our entire test drive pulled a two-face on us and was kind of a dick after I challenged the first set of numbers that he brought back to us.

We still haggled there for about an hour until I finally decided that they weren’t going to budge on their prices – they’d up the loan term to 84-months, but wouldn’t lower their price – so eventually I got on the phone with dealer #2 and asked if they’d honor the price that they’d given us if we came the next day.

They said, “Of course!” and agreed to follow-up in the morning…

…when they sent me a bill of sale for $1,000 more and said that the original offer was no longer valid.

W.T.F.

Just for the record, it takes a lot of nerve to tell someone, “Yeah, it’ll be $1,000 more!” and then follow up the customer’s disgust with, “So are you still coming down today?”

This is why I could never be a salesman – because if that’s the level of dishonesty required to do your day to day job, it’s just not for me. I mean, for the second guy, (allegedly) I had talked to him on the phone while he was feeding his two year-old son!

Who lies while they’re feeding a baby, for cryin’ out loud?!?!?!

So I’m done searching for now. I just don’t have the heart in me to deal with this stuff anymore right now, and I’m still getting over being sick, and we’ve got scads of family in town, and I can’t do it.

We’ll pick things up in a few weeks after I’ve had a chance to get over this garbage, and then we’ll start up all over again. I’ll put on yet another layer of thick skin and charge up my BS meter, and we’ll see if we can secure us a van to trudge this clan around Florida for the foreseeable future.

Dream Journal : Writing Fiction

March 28, 2018 7:56am
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I was sitting down to work on my next piece. And I wanted it to be BIG. So big, in fact, that I could already see the title card for the animated feature in my mind…

WILDFYRE

But what … was … Wildfyre???

Was it a place?

Was it a person?

No.

As I pictured the opening sequence, I saw something big come crashing over the horizon … with whitecaps breaking against its bow as the music of a thousand men men rhythmically chanting rang out.

Yes.

Wildfyre was a ship!

A massive ship – with a huge, stone mast and massive sails that carried a crew of crusaders back to their people in glorious victory. They were hunters, and they had just finished up a successful harvest that would keep their tribe hearty for another year. 

But there was a catch … as there always is.

Because these proud hunters scoured the land for exotic animals, and unbeknownst to them the animals that they took were the last of their kind.

They were about to find out the consequences of their pillaging in a very unsavory way.

a survey about me … for 2018!

March 27, 2018 10:46pm
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It’s been over a year since I did one of these and I’m in a good mood tonight, so let’s get caught up on things about me, circa 2018…

Last TV Show Watched – Last Man on Earth

Superhero You’d Least Like to Die in Avengers: Infinity War – Cap, yet in a strange way I think I’m also ok if he dies because he’s had my favorite arc to date

Superhero You’d Most Like to Die in Avengers: Infinity War – Spider-Man, because I prefer my Spider-Men to at least be of drinking age

Last Video Game Played – Super Mario Bros

Favorite Thing(s) You’ve Written So Far This Year – Why We Love Legos! (Scott’s Guide to Life); Saying Goodbye to a Childhood Sanctuary… (Scott’s Thoughts)

If You Could Be On Any Cruise Ship Right Now… the one we spent our anniversary on last fall would suit me just fine

Lego Set You’re Looking Forward to Building Ship in a Bottle

Latest Collectible Purchased Gizmoduck Funko Pop figure

Tomorrow You Have to… – drive to the airport, possibly rake leaves, possibly also do some actual work

Favorite Ice Cream – Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter World (available only at Target, for some reason)

Disney Attraction You’d Most Like to Ride – Soarin’ 2.0 … still haven’t checked out the new movie because the kids are too small

Thing You’re Looking Forward to Writing – more blogging, actually!

Car You’re Begrudgingly Getting Ready to Purchase – a minivan

If You Could Be Any Animal… – a fish, or maybe a shark, because either way life in the ocean seems so much quieter than life here on land

Sandwich? – Smoke Stacker from Honeybaked Ham

Bedsheet Color – dark blue

Last Amazon Purchase – diapers & wipes

Something Interesting You Read Recently – this article about how to positively influence the behavior of someone who has autism

Interesting Subreddit You’d Recommend /r/datacenter … techie insight from people who run the world’s datacenters

If You Got to Pick Your Own Dream Tonight – I’d be up for a good knight’s tale where I fight a dragon (and live to talk about it).

So I just posted the essay that I’ve been working on about taking a break from social media – go check it out over at Scott’s Guide to Life and then come back here for a few of my expanded thoughts…

The Social Media Cleanse

I’m not really sure what I want to do at this point because I do miss things like sharing goofy links and random parenting observations, but not at the expense of making myself feel awful when I get into fights over politics or just allow myself to get wound up by the immediacy of a news cycle that reacts first and asks relevant questions later, if ever.

Very briefly I pulled up both Twitter and Facebook to make sure that the links to my post showed up correctly, and I’m not exaggerating that after only a few minutes of scrolling, I felt my anxiety building until I finally just gave up and closed out each of the tabs. They were the same as I had left them a week and a half ago – like the shit cyclone has just been spinning this entire time, new Trump issues, same Trump channel.

And yet, there’s still great, hilarious stuff like this…

Part of me wonders if it’s worth trying to trim up my friend and follow lists to get them to a more manageable level, again because there are a (relatively small) handful of people who I genuinely want to keep up with either because they’re fellow writers, they make me laugh, or they’re just really good friends. 

Still, I think part of the charm of being away from social media has been not having that never-ending feed of updates to suck at my every waking idle moment. In a way, it’s been kind of nice to sit there watching TV at night and not have my phone in my hand, blindly scrolling through posts just as quickly as my social media master can serve them to me!

Sara says that maybe I should try using Facebook like she does – she rarely logs in, and when I say rarely I just mean weekly instead of hourly, and when she does, she tends to read messages in a few specific interest groups and keeps scanning her regular news feed from friends for last.

To be honest, I actually prefer Twitter to Facebook because I follow more like-minded people there, so maybe I need to do something like that, just on Twitter instead.

I recall exchanging a few emails trying to learn more about social media with fellow humorist Erik Deckers a few years ago and he recommended using it like a stream to dip into from time to time rather than a giant pool that I felt obligated to read every post from every person who I followed – that’s probably another good idea to help calm that feeling of being overwhelmed whenever I pull up my feed!

Combined with my mountainous concerns about Facebook oversharing personal data, being ravenous bastards with regards to their advertising program, and harboring the same walled garden principles that have turned me away from other networks in the past, I need to find a better way to make social media work for me so that the positive aspects outweigh the garbage.

I’m not sure if that means starting new accounts altogether or pruning the hell out of existing ones. Or possibly figuring out how to filter very limited versions of my friends lists so that I really only have to read those few that I genuinely enjoy.

It’s kind of funny because more than once I’ve actively noticed on Instagram where I’m clearly checking my feed too often because there might only be a half a dozen new pictures and the rest I’ve already seen before!

So if I’m concerned about Facebook and Twitter being a time suck again, maybe that’s a part of it – trimming down my lists until reviewing them becomes a once a day activity instead of all day, every day.

Still, Facebook and Twitter are a lot easier to post on than Instagram…

It’s so complicated, and it shouldn’t have to be!!!

It really makes me wonder how many other people struggle with using social media effectively versus letting it run/ruin their lives because I know I can’t be the only one who is driven crazy by the ever-spinning shit show.

#poopemoji

I’m happy to report that I’m doing a little better than I was the other day. Not amazing, but better nonetheless.

Over the last couple of days as I’ve struggled with mental stuff, I’ve done some reading and spent a lot of time thinking about my own actions and triggers, so I thought it might be useful to write up a few of them to share…

Although for the most part my anxiety is situational, not chemical, I find it kind of interesting to analyze and try to visualize how it is that my brain processes being overwhelmed.

For example, I read a description that I really took to heart where a guy stated that he had trouble looking forward to things – birthday parties for the kids, having company over, etc… – because in his mind, each of these things got framed as “more stuff that I’m going to have to do.” So having family visit balloons into this big mess because the house is dirty and needs to be cleaned, and the sheets for the spare bed need to be washed, and you’ve got to figure out what they want to eat and go grocery shopping … a methodology I can kind of relate to because when you’re already feeling overwhelmed, the last thing you need is people adding more stuff to your list!

I’ve also noticed that some people interpret being quiet as being upset, which makes things more challenging for me because A) I’m not really a very outgoing person anyways, and more importantly B) when I’m struggling, sometimes underneath that quiet I’m actually fighting against myself not to explode over things that I know shouldn’t bother me, but for whatever reason right now are just rubbing me the wrong way.

It’s definitely a true statement that when I hit those ugly lows, sometimes I lash out at people who’ve done nothing wrong except for be in the proximity when I’ve hit my breaking point, which is why I think I’d rather either have people not engage with me at all or just try to have a normal conversation with me instead of asking, “What’s wrong?” because I seem quiet or don’t have a beaming smile on my face.

Of course, that said – sometimes I just need a break from people, to say nothing about the people themselves, but sometimes talking with other people is mentally taxing and I need some alone time to unwind and let things mellow out again.

That’s the real crux of my anxiety, I’d say – because when I’m getting more and more overwhelmed by a situation, the key is to take a step back from it, not try to force myself to power through and be social anyways.

It’s interesting because the other day when I was particularly low, I thought about the end of the day and how I was going to finally relax and unwind once I’d gotten through it all. I dreamed about lighting a nice, relaxing ocean-scented candle and turning this app I have on my phone to the sound of ocean waves, and just laying back and unwinding for a bit…

…and yet instead of doing that at the end of my day, I wrote this blog post about it insteadand that ended up being just as therapeutic.

One thing I’ve definitely learned from going to therapy for something like three years now is that getting things out in the open is a much better way of dealing with them than keeping them stuffed up inside. Sometimes that just means talking about them with my wife or my therapist, but as I get older I’m also growing a little bit braver in talking publicly about my anxiety issues, and if someone else stumbles upon these posts and they help them through a hard time, then that’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned!

Don’t be surprised if I start writing about mental health here on my blog a little more, both to work through issues that I’m experiencing as well as do brain dumps of the random pieces I’ve gathered in my head from time to time. As long as they’re positive and productive, I don’t mind comments on these pieces, but I am going to maintain a zero tolerance policy if someone sees this as an opportunity to bitch about how therapy is for the weak or it’s all just in your head.

I mean, it is in my head … that’s what I’m trying to work out here on paper … but I don’t need anyone being a dick about it while I’m going through the process. That’s all.

10 Things I Love About Kids…

March 24, 2018 11:33pm
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  1. When you’re holding them and they put their little hand on your shoulder as if some sort of highly regarded confidant.
  2. Their insatiable passion for cookies.
  3. Quietly watching them play from a distance.
  4. Muppet shoes.
  5. Dinosaur roars.
  6. Genuine, earnest laughter.
  7. Teaching them how to fly.
  8. Perpetual, unbridled happiness.
  9. Perpetual, unbridled happiness with regards to food.
  10. Random leg hugs when you least expect them.

The Longest Day

March 23, 2018 2:27am
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I don’t normally write about my problems with anxiety & depression, but today was probably one of the worst days that I’ve ever had, so I wanted to take a few candid notes here to read back to myself at another time…

There were parts of today where I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the day.

There were parts where I felt like a failure, both as a parent and as a husband.

There were parts where I had to beg my kids with tears in my eyes to do what I needed them to do because all they wanted to do was fight back.

I’m still recovering a bit from my kidney stones earlier this week, but I don’t think that was it. This is in my head.

Today my life completely and utterly overwhelmed me. It felt like I had 1,000 things on my plate to accomplish, and I was capable of accomplishing approximately zero of them.

It felt like I met every form of resistance along the way, most from the kids because toddlers just know how to push your buttons before they even know that they’re doing it. Not wanting to eat. Not wanting to put on clothes. Not wanting to stop hitting one another. There was just no end to it, to the point where I felt guilty of just how relieved I felt when I got the first two down for their nap … at which time the third started to up his game to make up for his sleeping brothers…

I screamed at one of my sons – multiple times – not out of anger, but out of desperation. And I knew before I was even done yelling that I was in the wrong by the way he winced and clamped his hands over his ears.

I don’t want to be the type of Dad that my kids fear. EVER.

Some people tried to help along the way, but I declined it – I think because accepting help for something that I felt like I should’ve been able to handle made me feel like even more of a failure.

I tend to get overwhelmed when I realize that I have more tasks to do than I can actually get done, and it’s much worse when more and more tasks continue to get piled on top while I’m already standing there staring with my hands up in the air.

What helped me to inch my way through the day was to stop and take a breath, and then choose three things that I was going to work on next…

  1. Take my pills.
  2. Feed the kids.
  3. Start the laundry.

The mountain was infinitely larger than that, but the list protected me from the mountain as long as I focused on it because nothing new gets to tumble down from the mountain onto it until it’s clear.

  1. Find clothes for the kids.
  2. Pack a bag with diapers and bottles.
  3. Start getting them dressed and ready to go, one at a time.

  1. Get the kids in the car.
  2. Refill the tank at the gas station.
  3. Drive-thru to pick up something for dinner.

Looking back, I don’t yet know how to prevent days like today from happening again, but I can tell myself this – I made it.

It was one of the worst episodes of depression that I’ve ever faced, and I survived it.

And I’ve got lots of follow-ups to do, and I’m sure I’ll talk a lot about it in therapy tomorrow, but that’s why I go. Because my brain has issues, and sometimes they grow to be completely and utterly overwhelming.

Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully it will be better than today was, but if it isn’t … I’m capable of surviving that, too.

Remembering Toys ‘R Us…

March 22, 2018 9:36pm
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It makes me really sad to think that the store responsible for suppling some of the best toys of my youth, and also my adulthood!, is closing.

Even today, it’s hard for me not to just wander around a Toys ‘R Us and take it all in – the toy sections at Walmart and Target can’t compare to their selection, and searching on Amazon just isn’t quite the same as browsing aisle after aisle after aisle of nothing but toys like Toys ‘R Us has offered us in person. I love the vast variety that can have you one minute looking at toddler toys and singing Elmos, then Power Wheels and scooters, then almost every Lego set currently in production!

I guess the thing that really bothers me is that unlike other types of stores, there really aren’t any alternatives that we can go to aside from those inferior options at other big box retailers for toys and nothing but toys. I mean, it’s bothered me for a while how toy stores have basically disappeared from our malls, except maybe at Christmastime in one of those odd, pop-up stores or kiosks that you know will be long gone come the new year. 

Disney used to have a decent toy store over at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World, but it was recently downsized to make room for a bigger Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, I think?

Toys ‘R Us was fantastic, to steal the phrase from Chuck E. Cheese’s, at truly being the one and only place where a kid could be a kid. It was a totally immersive experience to be surrounded by toys from every veritable direction, and so it makes me sad that I won’t be able to treat my own kids to a visit after they get good report cards or we just feel like picking up some new Lego sets.

Not to mention, Toys ‘R Us has been the only local store that’s regularly had Collectible Lego Minifigs when I wanted them because Target and Walmart consistency fall short… :<

I think I might write a little more about this later, once I’ve had a chance to visit my local store and better soak it all in, but in the meantime The Game Chasers just posted a pretty great video looking back at their own memories from growing up as Toys ‘R Us kids. So many memories, so many video games, so many toys… 🙁

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