Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombing

I was going to write a post about my moving into my new place this past weekend and how I'm still unpacking and organizing everything, and probably even talk about how I'm already getting along with my new roommates really well too, but yesterday's events suddenly made me feel like writing about my move was borderline offensive to those affected by the bombings in Boston.

The news broke as people in my office started chatting about it yesterday, so I went online to find news reports about it.  The only details released at first were that an explosion of some kind happened, and there were some injuries.  Of course that sounded awful, but my first question was whether the nature of the explosion was an accident of some kind, like a gas line blowing, or was it more of a bomb?  Also, were the injuries scrapes and bruises with some broken bones, or more serious than that?

I quickly got my answers.

I haven't watched the video recordings from people's cell phones or cameras at all.  I don't want to see them.  I saw enough panic and screaming in the videos taken on 9/11, and when reports came out of people's feet and/or legs being amputated, I decided images like those weren't ones I'd want to see.

The more details that are released paint a clearer picture of how deliberate this operation was.  CNN reported that people with injuries treated at area hospitals were having shards of metal, ball bearings, and other small debris removed from their bodies, indicating the bombs were packed with such pieces in them in order to inflict maximum damage in the victims.  I watched CNN as I unpacked my clothes and other belongings last night, and at least one guest with an extensive background in security and counter-terrorism said the bombing had all the tell tale signs of a terrorist event.  Obviously since the investigation was only just beginning, any formal labeling of a terrorist attack would be irresponsible.

As sickening and horrifying as all these reports are, the worst is arguably the story surrounding one of the three confirmed fatalities in the bombing.  Martin Richard was 8 years old, and he was at the marathon with his mother and younger sister waiting for his dad who was one of the runners in the race.  Martin was killed in the blast, his sister lost her leg, and their mother suffered a brain injury.  How does a man approaching the end of the Boston marathon handle watching his family smile and wave at him as he's closing in on finishing the race, and then watch an explosion take out his entire family?  I'm not sure I can think of something more horrific than that.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Joe Andruzzi.  Joe Andruzzi is a former NFL lineman, who most notably played for the Patriots during their Super Bowl dynasty during the first half of the previous decade.  Andruzzi is a native New Yorker, whose three brothers are all NYC firefighters and rescued trapped civilians in the World Trade Center (all three brothers are still active firefighters to this day).  Andruzzi quickly became a bit of a spokesman who actively raised money for charity for families who lost loved ones at 9/11, but almost more importantly also started the Joe Andruzzi Foundation which works towards fighting pediatric brain cancer.  Andruzzi started the foundation after he himself beat cancer and met kids who dealt with inoperable forms of brain cancer in hospitals.

If all that didn't make you a complete Joe Andruzzi fan, keep reading.

One of the ways Andruzzi raises money for his foundation is by putting together a team of runners every year in the Boston marathon.  He attends the race every year himself too, and yesterday was no different.  After the blast, he found a woman who was injured, so he did the only thing he could do: he picked her up and carried her to receive medical attention.

Picture for a moment how much better of a world we'd be living in if there were more people like Joe Andruzzi.  Labeling someone a hero is a very overused practice nowadays, especially in the world of sports and entertainment.  True heroes are the people like Joe Andruzzi, who don't even think what they're doing is beyond anything than what should be considered common decency.  He doesn't want any kind of special recognition for his actions either.  He's very much a modern day Superman, and hardly anyone knows about his heroic deeds.  If not for his immense size, he probably wouldn't even draw much attention walking down the street.

Thank God for people like Joe Andruzzi though.  It's his actions and resolve that give hope to others immediately around him, and inspire the rest of us.  Every great tragedy has one small glimmer of hope and light, and yesterday he was that light.

Today brought another beacon of light following the bombing.  Newly-signed Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola posted on Twitter he'd donate $100 for every catch he makes next season towards any Boston Marathon Relief Fund, and another $200 per dropped ball he makes.  Now that's class.

This was one of the harder blog posts I've had to write in a while, but I have a little more hope for humanity again after yesterday's horror.  The upside to any tragedy is that there's the chance for the best in generosity, courage, and selflessness in the aftermath.  Just as it was following 9/11 and the Newtown shooting, the best in us still shines through even now.

Monday, April 8, 2013


During my high school years, I became fascinated with the filmmaking process.  I think I drove more than a few friends nuts with how much I had talked about movies, and which ones I had wanted to see or already seen.  I made a point to watch as many critic reviews shows to see which movies were supposed to be good, and which ones were disappointing and/or flat out awful.

One of the first movie critic shows I watched every week was Siskel & Ebert, which was arguably the most popular of all the critics' shows out there, and certainly the most iconic.  They had their individual tastes, but their friendship and chemistry showed through every week.  I never had a preference for one versus the other, though I got the sense Ebert knew when to stop taking summer blockbusters seriously more often than Siskel did.

When Gene Siskel had passed away in 1999, there was a great void in the world of movie critics.  Ebert eventually found a new partner in Richard Roeper every week on his show, and even though they were clearly friends as well, things weren't quite the same once the pair had permanently broken up.  I still watched the show as Ebert & Roeper, though not nearly with as much dedication as I did during those first few years.

Word eventually came out that Ebert had to leave his show after being diagnosed with cancer, and eventually had surgery on his jaw to remove the cancerous cells.  He wasn't able to speak at all after his surgery, though he still regularly posted his reviews on his website.  His style of humor was still as present as it was before his surgery, so I enjoyed reading his reviews of everything from superhero movies to small indie favorites.

However last week he posted an update that due to health issues he would no longer be able to post reviews on his website on a regular basis anymore.  He intended to continue posting on his blog news about his cancer and statuses on his health, until he sadly passed away only days after posting his final update.  He is survived by his wife, two stepchildren, and several grandchildren.

Roger Ebert was an inspiration to me in doing my own movie reviews, many of which I've posted on this blog.  I'll never be able to capture the nuances or subtle cues added in most films the way he did during his career, though that doesn't mean I won't keep doing them.  I certainly have learned a lot about directing styles, writing, inconsistent plots and/or characters, and editing through his works.  I still have one of his most well-known books that I enjoy reading to this day: "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie!"  I've used that book as a model for how to write reviews, especially of movies that I didn't like.

There have been plenty of films that Ebert hated that I still enjoyed, and vice versa.  I've often wondered what purpose critics really serve nowadays with social media taking the place of many well-known movie critics.  With the likes of Gene Siskel, Joel Siegel, and now Roger Ebert gone, there aren't too many critics the mass public can easily recognize anymore.  Studios used to take brief quotes from some big name critics to help promote their releases, but there aren't too many critics the public really take seriously now.  I stopped relying on most of them a long time ago too, and the reviews I post on my blog are mostly for my own purpose.

Still, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge someone who was a major influence on film critics and journalism in general.  Thumbs up, Roger.