Nicholas Conley radio WSCA True Tales Alzheimer's audience

True Tales: Past the Horizon Line

Back in February of 2016, I was honored to have the opportunity to share a true story on the radio station WSCA 106.1 FM, and in front of a live studio audience.

That story, which I called “Past the Horizon Line,” was about my real life experiences working in a nursing home, and how my friendship with one particularly amazing Alzheimer’s patient had a profound impact on my life.

As longtime readers know, much of my writing — including my novel Pale Highway (which deals with Alzheimer’s), as well as Clay Tongue: A Novelette (which deals with post-stroke aphasia) and my upcoming book, Intraterrestrial (which deals with traumatic brain injuries) — has been based on my experiences working in healthcare, but it’s not often that I get to share too much about what those real experiences were like, and how they shaped the person I am today. For that reason, I’d like the share this clip with you all, where I tell my story, “Past the Horizon Line.” Thank you for watching.

 

 

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Sam Raimi Tobey Maguire Spider-Man 4

What if Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 Happened Today?

Good morning, everyone! Today I’m just sharing a post I made on Screen Rant. Since Spider-Mania is in the air once again, with Spider-Man: Homecoming aiming to break box office records next week, I thought this would be a fun time to do a “What If?” piece relating to the old Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire films.

Raimi’s Spider-Man movies are classics, and so I wanted to dive in and imagine a scenario wherein the original crew would come back, just one last time, to make a Logan-like Spider-Man 4. What would such a movie look like? Well, here are my thoughts.

Spider-Man 4: 15 Things We’d Love To See If A Raimi/Maguire Sequel Ever Happened

Sam Raimi Tobey Maguire Spider-Man 4

There’s no overstating the importance of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. Blade may have unlocked the door, and Bryan Singer’s X-Men cracked it open, but 2002’s Spider-Man was the record-breaking blockbuster that blew the door off its hinges, causing the flood of superhero movies that hasn’t ceased in the fifteen years since. Though it’s now been a decade since the arrival of Spider-Man 3 — a film which, while financially successful, was widely considered something of a letdown compared to the still beloved Spider-Man 2 — the legacy of Raimi’s lucrative series is still felt today.

Soon, Marvel Studios will be lighting up theaters across the world with its MCU-based Spider-Man: Homecoming. While that movie will almost certainly be a smashing success, let’s dream for a moment: theoretically, what if the success of Homecoming convinced Sony to get Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire together again one last time, to finally create the worthwhile conclusion that the old series deserves? Continue reading on ScreenRant.com.

Mekong River Laos

The Evolution of Language

Over the last few months, I enjoyed the enormous thrill of doing some work for Dictionary.com, a site which I (and most writers) have certainly used as a research database for many years. Aside from being one of the most exciting companies I could ever imagine writing for, there was a sheer pleasure to the process itself. Researching words. Looking into the history of the language. Figuring out how words evolve. Words are how we sculpt ideas, and we can track the evolution of culture through the words we use.

The non-words of today are the words of tomorrow. Consider the term “ponytail,” once clearly modeled after an actual pony’s tail, but now ubiquitous with a hairstyle. Or the way we refer to the “legs” of a chair. Language is fascinating, because of what it says about how we think.

Language is not only our most characteristic invention. It’s us.

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The true beauty of language, I think, is in its inherent fluidity. The words we use today frame the concepts that we’re talking about, the comparisons that we’re making, the joining of one idea to another. Because of this, I think new words are something to be embraced, not resisted; while terms like “hangry” and “man bun” might sound silly today, they represent the conceptualization of attitudes, styles, and behaviors that did exist before, but have now been given a new representation within this culture.

Language never stops evolving, because people  — and the way we think — never stops evolving either. While humans always have a tendency to romanticize some era of their past, the truth is that culture must continue progressing forward. Things have to change. Attitudes have to evolve, and then evolve past whatever they evolved into. It’s what culture does. So it’s important that we always open our eyes to the future, and always stay interested in what’s ahead.

 

human verbs, motion, existence

Traveling Verbs

Life is what we create it to be. And thus life, or creation — and by extension, the identities of who “we,” “I,” or “you” are — are not fixed. We’re not solid entities. We’re not nouns. No, actually, we’re verbs.

We are autopoietic, self-creating (thanks, Gabriel). And so we are constantly fluid, always recreating ourselves in every new moment, always writing the next page of our story with every breath.

We’re all stories.

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I’ve always connected to stories; both my own, and the stories of others, whether real or fictional. Stories, and the inherent connection they have to every aspect of life, is what made me become a writer. Every person you meet is a walking story. Every person’s story is the combination of planning, impulses, unexpected plot twists, and coincidence. Every “walking story” out there lives with a kaleidoscope of supporting characters, settings, and subplots running parallel to each person’s central narrative, which will eventually lead them to a final conclusion that no one can know until we get there. Yet, ironically enough, whatever conclusion may be, it will be built from every piece of what has occurred before. When “the end” comes, it will enhance and redefine all of the scenes that our lives were built out of, in ways we never could have predicted. Minor conversations may become deeply important, in retrospect, when our story becomes a possession of people other than ourselves.

Somewhat frighteningly, not everyone gets to choose what sort of story their life is. It may be a tragedy, a comedy, a horror, any number of things, and much of this is determined by such utterly random factors as chance, luck, and coincidence. Somewhere in the middle of this is “free will” and “choice.” These two things are important, but we shouldn’t fall into the illusion that either of them possesses any control over reality. Factors like societal norms, poverty, privilege, and geographical location all form the basis of a person’s story before that person is even born. Our free will is how we respond to the outside, how we choose to perceive it, but the outside has a way of taking back control whenever it wants to. But just as free will shouldn’t be overstated — when so many other factors also play a role in life —  free will should also not be understated either. Free will is the only tool we have to craft our own stories, to write our tales to the best of our ability.

The future awaits, and every moment builds to it. Every person is a story. Everyone is constantly evolving. Nothing is truly static. Nothing can fixed. And change or evolution, no matter how improbable it might seem, is always possible.

Dark Tower Trailer is Here!

Afters years upon years of waiting, the first trailer for the upcoming cinematic adaptation of The Dark Tower is real, it’s breathing, and it’s live:

As readers know, the Dark Tower series was hugely influential on me — as a writer, a reader, and as a person — so this is easily my most anticipated movie of the year. It’s a hard one to get right, but so far, I’m impressed.

As the filmmakers have said, they are pulling from multiple books in the series for this first film, which I think makes sense; the original book, The Gunslinger, is fairly slow paced compared to the subsequent books, with much of it consisting of Roland and Jake following the Man in Black through the desert. It looks like this one uses the general plot structure of The Gunslinger, combines it with the house/portal from The Waste Lands, and then uses some of the New York elements of the last two books. Having everything somewhat different from the books actually works with this storyline, in a way it wouldn’t with other adaptations, since the notion of alternate realities, timelines, and dimensions is sewn right into the fabric of the Dark Tower mythos. As Jake famously said in the first novel, “there are other worlds than these.”

Either way, I definitely got chills hearing that last line. Idris Elba seems like an absolutely amazing Roland, with all of the gravitas that the character demands. Jake and the Man in Black look to perfectly capture the characters in the books. Can’t wait to see this in theaters.

Some Thoughts on the End of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine

 

Quick note, I’ll be getting back to my Southeast Asia stories next week! But in the meantime, a pause: 

It’s crazy to look back and realize that it has been 17 years since the first X-Men movie came out. I still remember sitting in that theater, so nervous that they were going to get it wrong. Like any kid of my generation, I was obsessed with superheroes, and the X-Men were always near the top of my favorites list. And in particular, I loved Wolverine; the gruff loner of the team, the outsider who never quite fit in.

These days, there are multiple superhero films released every year, and characters as out there as Groot and Doctor Strange are featured on T-shirts, posters, and billboards all around the world. But back in 2000, superhero movies were a rare oddity, and when they did come out, it rarely turned out well.

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So yes, I remember sitting in that movie theater back in 2000, totally nervous, feeling certain that this was going to be the only X-Men movie that ever got made, and just as certain that they were going to ruin Wolverine. The commercials had marketed the movie as more of a horror-like suspense than a sci-fi film, the costumes were all black leather, and the actor that they’d cast as Logan was some unknown Australian guy who was way too tall, too friendly, not angry enough.

And then the movie started… and there he was. This beaten, tired, reckless guy in a cage fight, wandering from place to place, not knowing who he was or where he came from. The impossible had happened, and somehow, a four-colored comic book character with six razor sharp claws had just been brought to life.

Wolverine Hugh Jackman

From that first moment, that first scene in the bar, it was clear that Hugh Jackman owned this role. And he never stopped owning it. Jackman made Wolverine into a household name, redefining the character for an entire generation of fans. And then, instead of stopping after a couple movies, he continued playing the character for almost 20 years, a legacy almost unheard of in any major franchise. Even more amazingly, his passion for the character only became stronger over time. From then and until now, Jackman was Wolverine. He’s made that role his own, arguably more than any other superhero actor to date.

Sure, Christian Bale was amazing as Batman. Robert Downey Jr. has brought Iron Man from a B-list favorite into the poster boy of Marvel Comics. Tobey Maguire was perfect for Peter Parker. But honestly, I don’t think there’s ever been another actor who has been this dedicated to a superhero role, starring in so many different films, and even playing such a key role in the writing of the character as the series went on.

Hugh Jackman Wolverine Logan

 

What Hugh Jackman — and the director, Bryan Singer — understood about Wolverine, that could have been so easily screwed up, was that the fundamental appeal of the character is his humanity, and the constantly wavering contrast between the good man buried within him and the rabid animal that he was brainwashed to be.

Another creative team may have simply painted Logan as the X-Men’s cranky outsider with a bad temperament, or maybe the supporting character who is simply the badass of the team with all the best one-liners. Jackman’s take, instead, is to always show the vulnerability in those eyes — the eyes of a man who lost his memory, his past, and everyone he’s ever loved — while also not shying away from the brutality; this is a guy who has spent his time beating people in cages, who can fly into a rage and skewer soldiers on his blades, but who at the same time can fall in love, protect children from harm, and even learn to believe in some idealistic dream preached to him by an old bald guy in a wheelchair.

Wolverine may be a killer, but he’s not supposed to be cold. Jackman understood the character’s inherent warmth, and that’s how he was able to embody Wolverine so successfully.

Hugh Jackman Logan Wolverine

It’s surreal to think that when Logan comes out, in just a few days, we’ll never see Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine again. From a creative perspective, I admire his decision to end the story now, while he’s ahead. Too often, these giant sci-fi vehicles just roll on and on without any closure; while there’s no doubt that the X-Men franchise will continue for years to come, this movie will at least allow fans to say a true goodbye to the character who first made the X-Men movies so popular to begin with.

When we look back on classic adventure characters in film, we always associate them with the actors who defined those characters as well. Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the Terminator. Carrie Fisher was Leia. Bruce Willis was John McClane. And I think, in the future, when we look back on Wolverine, we’ll always remember the way that Hugh Jackman held out those claws, forever etching his place in cinematic history.

Next time: The journey through Laos, I promise! 

Lopburi Thailand

Southeast Asia, Part 1: Bangkok, Lopburi, Chiang Mai, and Pai

Hello, hello!

I’m happy to announce that after a fantastic month out in southeast Asia, my wife Veronica and I have made it back home to the United States. Apologies for the long pause in blogging — perhaps the longest pause since I first started this blog in 2012! — but don’t worry, now that I’m back, the blog schedule will return to normal.

So yes, traveling: perhaps the most beautiful thing about traveling, really, isn’t what you see while you’re away, but what you bring back with you when you come home.

Lopburi Thailand

When one dives into other cultures headfirst, takes the time to understand them, to open oneself to the ways that other lands, peoples, and societies work, you find that there is no perfect society, no “best country on Earth,” no excuse for exceptionalism. Every place has its positives and negatives. Every culture has evolved into what it is for a reason, and the enhanced possibilities for cultural exchange is one of the best features of today’s world.

Traveling, experiencing other cultures, understanding other cultures, is the cure for such toxins as bigotry, prejudice, and ignorance. Because when you see why people are the way they are, it pulls back the ridiculousness of being judgmental, the inanity of putting up walls and pretending that one’s way is the best way, or the only way. In today’s times, an understanding of other cultures is exactly what we need if we want to move forward, instead of stepping back.

It’s good to be home. Flying back into New York City, even for just a stopover, and seeing the skyscrapers is always a delight. But it was just as amazing to spend an entire month immersed in southeast Asia, from Thailand to Laos to Cambodia, and back to Thailand again. There were so many experiences that I’ll never forget, so many new lessons that will stick with me, so much inspiration.

Thailand Phuket

Though I love writing, and I love traveling, writing travel posts is a bit of a struggle for me, primarily because it’s a form of writing that’s so different from what I usually do. Normally, when I write a piece, I try to take on a big issue and zoom in on one aspect of it, as intensely as I can: when I review a film, for instance, I focus on my interpretation of the story’s deeper meaning, instead of analyzing every single piece of the production itself. With writing about travel, however, I feel a desire to go through the entire trip, piece by piece, because the overall picture is so important, but this leaves less time to delve into the smaller details, which are often the ones with the most impact.

But it’s good to challenge oneself, and since traveling and writing are both such huge parts of who I am, I’m going to do my best. So, in this post, I’ll try to strike a compromise, break it into a few posts, and we’ll see how I do.

Nicholas Conley Bangkok Thailand

Onward:

Naturally, like most trips to Thailand, our journey began in Bangkok after a long 20+ hour transit via Air China, with a brief stopover in China itself. Bangkok is an enormous city, but a mesmerizing one. On later reflection, I realized that what makes Bangkok special is how unique it is, in that while wandering its streets, you really know where you are. Though many capital cities are now so internationalized that they could be anywhere in the world, Bangkok is always distinctively Bangkok.

And what does one do in Bangkok? Well, besides eating scorpions, as pictured above, there’s also countless food stalls serving utterly delicious pad Thai — which would go on to become a near-daily meal throughout the month. I also consumed quite a number of bottles of Chang, as well as fruit shakes made with no artificial syrup, no milk, nothing but the fruits themselves. Walking the streets of Bangkok really is an experience in and of itself, no doubt, and the culture truly is wonderful to interact with: Buddhism is enormous throughout all of Thailand, and the many positive, peaceful, worldly philosophies inherent to Buddhism have really permeated the land, and are a huge part of what makes it such an enjoyable country to visit.

A few days later we hitched the train to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, once the capital of Siam, the ruins of which are now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lots of amazing sights to see, all of which makes a person realize what a tiny piece of history we live in today.

Ayutthaya Thailand

After Ayutthaya, we then hopped back on the train and went down to Lopburi, which you readers will recognize from my last post.

Honestly, the time we spent in Lopburi is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. The main reason, of course, is the monkeys. Lopburi is a town completely overrun with crab-eating macaques, and after spending time with these guys, it’s impossible not to fall in love with them.

Thailand Lopburi

Not remotely shy, the monkeys can be seen climbing the telephone wires, hopping on cars, scurrying across rooftops, crowding up sidewalks, and if you happen to be carrying food, they have no problem jumping on top of you and snatching it right out of your hands. Though the monkeys wander all over the old town, they actually “live” in Prang Sam Yot, a former Khmer temple. Lopburi itself would be a fun town to spend time in, even without the monkeys, but the little guys are so impossible not to love, that Veronica and I really spent hours and hours just enjoying their company.

Something I really appreciated about the monkeys in Lopburi is their freedom; the city is theirs, just as much as it belongs to the people. The monkeys are free to roam as much as they wish, enjoying their lives, while interacting with people if and when they choose to, instead of being caged up or forced into being pets. Lopburi is a really unique city, and we enjoyed every minute of our time there.

Lopburi Thailand

After wrapping up our time in Lopburi, we took an overnight train to Chiang Mai, met up with an old friend who just happened to be in Thailand at the time, and then finished the night at a reggae bar. This ended up being an excellent preview for our next location: Pai, a legendary little hippie village in the mountains, that just so happens to have plenty of Thai rastas, reggae bars, arts, crafts, yoga, music shows, and all sorts of creative events.

They often say that people go to Pai and never come back, and it’s easy to see why. Nestled deep in the mountains, overlooked by the giant white Buddha, Pai is not just a beautiful place because of its overwhelming sights: it’s a beautiful place because of the people, art, and creative culture there.

We spent almost week in Pai. The first night was in a bungalow, and then we spent the rest of the time staying with new friends, renting mopeds and exploring the mountains, hot springs, and Pai Canyon, a breathtaking vista with perilous cliff drops, narrow ledges, and no guardrails.

All in all, what I can say is this: if we were to live in Thailand, I suspect that we’d probably make our home up in Pai.

Thailand Pai

And for now, we’ll take a break in the narrative; this seems like a good pause before we enter the next chapter. Coming up in my next blog post: an elephant sanctuary, the road to Laos, and Laos itself!