The Incredibles

incredibles-pixarI was an adult in my mid-20s when Pixar Studios released its first animated feature film, Toy Story, yet both have made an indelible impact on me.

Walt Disney fired a young John Lasseter when he suggested that the studio make an all-digital feature film, but after an Oscar win for the short Tin Toy in 1988 the new Disney regime of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg talked to Lasseter and his Pixar company about doing exactly that.

What they created changed the animated film business. Plenty of more traditional animated fare followed with the likes of Hercules, Mulan and Tarzan, but not only did Pixar movies become must-watch entertainment it also spawned the creation of other computer animation studios like Dreamworks.

One thing to note is that if not for the success of films like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast starting in 1989, Disney might never have been able to convince Robin Williams to do Aladdin. That film suddenly seemed to make it OK for big-named stars to “stoop” to the level of voice acting for animated films, which obviously led to the incredible voice cast for Toy Story and most every Pixar movie since.

For a bit more perspective on just how long it’s been since Andy, Woody and Buzz first graced movie screens, the screenplay was co-written by Joss Whedon. He would get his TV adaptation of his film Buffy The Vampire Slayer to the air a year and a half later for the beginning of its seven-season run.

Inside Out was released in theaters this weekend, the 15th Pixar feature and from pretty much all accounts one of the best of the bunch. That’s saying something, considering the roster of movies that the studio has put out over the past two decades. It sounds in part that it’s because this movie does what Pixar does when it’s at its best: provides something for kids and adults alike to appreciate and enjoy.

My wife and I went to see Cars 2 at the drive-in a few years ago, and while she enjoyed it well enough I wasn’t very impressed. Follow-ups Brave and Monsters University became the first two Pixar features I didn’t see in the theater, and I didn’t watch the latter for the first time until earlier this year.

Inside Out has me excited to go back to the theater again for Pixar, and it has inspired several reviewers and others to rank all the Pixar movies from top to bottom. But I’ve noticed more than one of those lists remarked that movies fell down the rankings because they hadn’t been seen in awhile either through indifference or not being run constantly on cable.

So instead I plan on going back to watch all the Pixar movies again and write up my thoughts on each. The exercise will likely result in my own best-to-worst list, but it will be having seen all of them in the recent past. I’m actually excited about revisiting some movies I used to see a lot but haven’t in awhile (A Bug’s Life is a perfect example) as well as movies that I probably only watched once to see how I feel about them now (Ratatouille and Brave would be two falling into this camp).

It’s pretty incredible to look at the track record the studio’s had over the course of 15 movies. Not everyone likes every movie, but except for Cars 2 they’re all generally well loved overall by critics and average viewers alike. So hopefully you’ll join me on this ride, which admittedly could take awhile. Considering how much some of the Pixar films have meant to me, I’m expecting a rewarding journey that I can share with you the reader.

Royals

Kansas City closer Greg Holland likely won't be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game this summer, but a lot of his teammates are poised to represent the Royals next month if the voting holds. (Associated Press)

Kansas City closer Greg Holland likely won’t be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game this summer, but a lot of his teammates are poised to represent the Royals next month if the voting holds. (Associated Press)

As I’m typing this sentence, the American League voting for the All-Star Game makes it look like ballots were only handed out in Kansas City — even though ballots aren’t handed out anywhere any more.

Eight of the nine starting spots in the AL lineup are populated by Kansas City Royals, with only Los Angels Angels center fielder Mike Trout — the pride of Millville, New Jersey — breaking up a vast sea of blue.

The top overall vote-getter when the most recent numbers were released Monday was Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who had just over 7.2 million votes. Trout, the defending AL MVP having another stellar season (.297, 13 2B, 18 HR, 39 RBI, 47 R, 8 SB), is second in voting among outfielders and nearly 700,000 votes behind KC’s Lorenzo Cain (.287, 11 2B, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 38 R, 11 SB). Royals outfielders sit third and fourth in voting, meaning Trout’s the only thing preventing a sweep of the defending AL champs in the starting lineup.

Over 300 million votes have been cast at mlb.com, the only place voting now occurs for the Midsummer Classic. Kansas City fans have obviously hit the internet in droves to figuratively stuff the ballot box with their players, even someone like second baseman Omar Infante who’s barely hitting above .200 and is by more than a few measures the worst everyday second baseman in the league. Diminutive Houston Astros second sacker Jose Altuve (.290, 11 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 27 R, 17 SB) is running a close second, and is a much better candidate.

Altuve is one of the only players seemingly to have any shot of catching one of the runaway Royals before the voting deadline at 11:59 pm July 2. Detroit Tigers perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera (.344, 13 2B, 14 HR, 47 RBI, 37 R, 40 BB, 1 SB) is within half a million votes of KC’s Eric Hosmer (.296, 13 2B, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 34 R, 25 BB, 3 SB), and Nelson Cruz (.317, 7 2B, 18 HR, 41 RBI, 34 R) trails the Royals’ Kendrys Morales (.275, 18 2B, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 33 R) at designated hitter. No one else is within a million votes of second, and Perez stands nearly four million votes ahead of Oakland’s Stephen Vogt (.281, 7 2B, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 31 R, 35 BB).

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this situation, with only a cursory nod to the Kansas City fans and what they’ve accomplished. Most stories point out the 1957 All-Star Game, when Cincinnati fans went to the park in droves and voted seven Reds into the starting lineup. The reaction from baseball was swift, as commissioner Ford Frick replaced two of those players and then took the vote away from fans the following year. They didn’t get it back for a dozen years.

This is the first season that voting has been exclusively online, a sign of the changing times and also likely at least part of the explanation for the skewed vote totals. MLB has stated that it’s investigated the anomaly and found no signs of wrongdoing on the part of Royals fans, but it’s really ticking a lot of people off. If I were a fan of an AL team that was being slighted due to this, I probably would be too.

But I’m not, and I’m really not. By the end of the All-Star Game, most if not all position players will have played and I love that of all teams achieving this utter imbalance that it’s the Royals. There were a lot of people wondering how on Earth Kansas City got the Midsummer Classic in 2012, and then the city put on one of the best shows in recent memory with huge fan turnout and support that almost made you forget how MLB has done everything it could to make the game “count” and yet devalue it at the same time.

I would certainly like to see Altuve overtake Infante at second base so the worst player at the position isn’t recognized purely due to where he plays. But a) there will be growing pains as the league transitions to online voting only, b) after seeing the love for the Royals when they faced the Giants in the World Series last October this can’t be all that surprising and c) if you want to see a different player voted in, GO VOTE. It’s easier than ever, which Kansas City fans have taken advantage of better than anyone else.

There’s still two-plus weeks of voting left, and Cabrera and Vogt already seem to be making up ground while the Astros have started a campaign to get Altuve voted in at second. Maybe this Royals takeover at the (online) ballot box will spur a renewed interest from fans that perhaps should have been more involved but weren’t until the desire to dethrone Infante, Hosmer or Mike Moustakas hit them.

And while Kansas City isn’t New York, LA or Chicago and is part of flyover territory, how many players might see this outpouring of support from the re-energized fan base in the middle of the country and perhaps hope that some day they can be Royals?

The Evil Forces of Entropy

“No structure, even an artificial one, enjoys the process of entropy. It is the ultimate fate of everything, and everything resists it.” – Philip K. Dick

“The Evil Forces of Entropy” was the phrase we used in college to describe the ever-increasing mess we found in our dorm rooms when things got hectic or some of us just didn’t feel like keeping things clean. It even made it into the comic one of my roommates drew for the school paper.

It’s not the most utterly precise use of entropy, but it’s also far more accurate to what we were trying to express than anything else with such an economy of words.

Since I worked my last day at the South Jersey Times after more than 14 years of service, I’ve had some part-time freelance work with a couple of different publications/websites. I’ve worked usually 2-3 days a week and produced 2-4 stories a week.

It’s been nice and I hope to continue, but at the same time it’s just not the same. I find the atmosphere of an office to be supremely beneficial to working, particularly since I don’t currently have a home office to use. And while it’s great seeing coaches and being involved, covering a full-time beat part-time is far from easy unless you like to work a lot for free.

Of course I can’t keep doing just this forever, so another job must be found. That can be easier said than done when The Evil Forces of Entropy sink their claws into you. They like things just the way they are, and aren’t really interested in doing what’s best for you.

My wife and I had a frank discussion recently about the situation, and I felt like I’d let her and myself down in some way by not doing more sooner to remedy the job situation. But she immediately told me that she wasn’t surprised, and that by the time I left the paper she knew I was burned out and needed a break … and not just a couple of weeks.

*****

I began writing this post over three months ago, when I was still doing a decent job of keeping this updated. Obviously things changed, and I let it slide. It wasn’t the most important thing on my to-do list, and even though it was still on the to-do list it kept getting pushed aside.

But I think I’ve realized that it’s a much more crucial part of that list than I gave it credit for, not for the content or the message it sends to anyone else but what it does for me. You see, that to-do list hasn’t been getting done the same way lately. Things get done in fits and starts, and some important things have been accomplished during the time since I last worked on this post.

But The Evil Forces of Entropy have also been tugging away, doing their best to prevent me from getting back on the road I need to be on, the road to a more normal life. I’m doing less writing now for the part-time job, because I got a promotion to be an editor. I think I realize now that means this blog is even more important to keep me writing on a regular basis.

My original goal was to write something every day — that’s what good bloggers do, continue to drive traffic by providing new material — and I will strive to do that as much as possible. But it won’t always be possible, and I know that. Besides, this blog was as much for me as anyone. But it will be a goal to keep it closer to the front burner, something that is part of a routine that includes getting more done and getting back to the things I really need to be doing.

While spontaneity is a wonderful thing, and I hope will be a part of this blog as well, structure is critical to a serial procrastinator like myself. I’ve decided this should be a part of that structure going forward, and that’s the plan for now.

Some of the things that had been part of my daily routine will have to become less so as I work to achieve what I want, and other, more constructive ones will have to find their way back into greater prominence. Striking balance will be key, but hopefully the ever-increasing threat of destitution will help my discipline. Posting things like this here in a public forum is a way to hold myself accountable. If you’d like to help, feel free. I’m sure I can use all the help I can get. Thanks in advance.