Fill In The Blank

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By: Connor Lenahan

“Since when is it noon?” This is a question I asked myself almost every day this week. Why? Because I had spent my down time in the office playing the most addictive website in human history. I speak of Sporcle.

Sporcle is a website that revolves around brain games. It could be a test to see if you can name every state in the country, or their capitals. It could be naming every song by Steely Dan (a quiz I sadly did not get 100% on). Just about anything you could think of.

There are difference tests to take, all of them timed, that challenge your knowledge. It is not only fun to play against the test but to challenge friends to establish dominance. I say this because my brain is freakily wired for Sporcle. When there are tests that give you a few seconds of a song and ask you to name it I normally clean up. On one such test, one designed around the top 50 songs of 2004, I was able to get 37/50 on my first try on one listen. They only gave you ten seconds of the songs. I challenged my friend Montana to this and she quickly replied “THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE.” That’s fair, given that we were in fourth grade when these songs came out, and I somehow remembered 74% of them, off the top of my head, a decade later.

So if you have some time tomorrow or tonight where you will just be sitting around the internet, feel free to fall into the wonderful world of Sporcle headfirst. It’s a ton of fun. And please, challenge me at will. I am hyper competitive on this site. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

I’m embarrassed for myself that I just said that. I apologize.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

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By: Connor Lenahan

Two days ago I wrote about characters. I wrote about how my favorite part about movies were the characters rather than the story being told. I am always fascinated by intriguing characters.

“Go watch the Night Crawler trailer.” That’s a text I got this morning from my younger brother Chase. He knows of my absurd love of movie trailers and my propensity to watch them for two and a half hours at a time. Having read the title Nightcrawler in the news about a day earlier I decided to check it out.

Chase could have easily sold me with the description of the movie that I will give now: dark, intense, crime film, starring Jake Gyllenhall. I am an unabashed fan of Gyllenhall ever since I saw him in Zodiac a few years ago. Within reason, you could convince me to see anything he is in, especially after he turned Prisoners into one of my favorite films of 2013.

So when I watched the trailer above and saw how what appeared to be a well meaning man started to become slightly unhinged and a tad bit crazy, especially with his wide eyes coming through the screen, staring into your soul blankly, I knew that I would have a ticket opening night for Nightcrawler. This looks like a movie that is more than up my alley. I am all in on this movie.

I’m also all in on what appears to be a growing trend for this fall. With Nightcrawler, my list of anticipated movies is now topped by three names. It joins David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher as two that I will skip a full day of class and/or work to see the opening day. All three of these films not only look visually stunning from the trailer (it may be a stretch to call Foxcatcher stunning given it looks permanently overcast, but I happen to like that effect) but appear to be dark stories. All three revolve around murder or crimes. This just so happens to be my favorite type of movie to watch. So it appears as though we may be heading for an Oscar race cater made for my tastes.

Thank you Hollywood, that was sweet of you to do.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

Tiny Humans

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By: Connor Lenahan

Kids are awesome. When kids are in that fluid, golden age where they are smart enough to think and speak on their own, but young enough to do it without a filter amazing things happen. I’ve had two things happen to me, one a few weeks ago and another only an hour or so, that reaffirm my love of little kids and the innocent craziness they bring into this world.

The earlier of two stories came chile I was on vacation. While I did not get to witness this happen with my own eyes, I would have paid anything to have after hearing the story. On our trip to London we met up with our close family friends the Sprung family. The dad, Robert, has been a friend of my dad’s since they were kids. His wife Yuko is one of the nicest people to have ever lived. Their two daughters, Sophie, 9, and Hannah, 7, are entirely crazy while doubling as the most talented and brilliant young adults I have ever met. For example, Sophie is already a national champion figure skater in France, where she and the family currently live. Hannah is capable of not only recognizing things but expressing ideas in a manner far beyond not just her years, but my own as well. Oh, and did I mention that they are both capable of speaking three languages? English, Japanese (Yuko’s native tongue), and French. I’m a college sophomore who took Spanish for four years and remembers 25 words of it on a good day. Needless to say, this isn’t fair.

While at dinner one evening Robert told me about an observation that Hannah had made on a recent flight from France to New York City. Upon landing the flight attendant made the standard “Thank you for flying… We hope you enjoyed…” announcement in English before reading the same message again in French. Upon the conclusion of the French reading Hannah, who again is seven years old, turned to her father and uttered the now immortal line, “that was French with a New York accent.”

Name me someone else on the planet who would pick up on that. Not only is this brilliant, but it’s the most snarky comment I have heard in quite some time. And it came from someone who still watches Disney Junior on a daily basis. I’m going to be following up on this story in a decade as Hannah graduates from Harvard early with a degree in linguistics. You can lock that down.

The second story was far simpler. Tonight, with nothing else to do, I decided to jog from my room to the newly opened Uniqlo storefront at Faneuil Hall. This was a considerable task, given that it was four miles away and I’d be doing it in my wheelchair. I succeeded, but that isn’t the key. No, the funniest part was when I was maybe three quarters of a mile away towards the end of my run. I was coming downhill and heading into a crosswalk. On my way down I noticed a young boy standing to my right holding a Spiderman action figure. He watched as I raced downhill in the chair. Normally, kids are highly confused about why I use the chair when they clearly see my legs moving. Not this champ. No, instead he made eye contact with me, smiled from ear to ear, and gave me a thumbs up.

Why exactly he decided to give me affirmation is a mystery. He didn’t know what I was doing, nor did he know where I was going. He didn’t know my story. And if he did there are some significant questions to be asked. Yet he felt the urge to give me the universal sign for “You Go Girl” and I couldn’t be happier. I think I excitedly laughed, thanked him, and continued on my quest towards shopping to the tune of “LoveStoned” by Justin Timberlake.

The world can get to be a boring place. Day in and day out we normally do the same thing more or less. It’s the little spices of excitement, especially given to us by wonderful tiny humans, that make me love life anew.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

Characters

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By: Connor Lenahan

Something dawned on me the other day while I was finishing the first season of True Detective while flying back from Ireland. I have no business ever trying to become a film critic. Really a critic of television or film. I finally understood why.

Part of this I was already aware of. I’m a positive person by nature, this much is apparent if you even spend three minutes talking to me. I’ve had way too much good in my life to focus on the bad. Being positive is how I live my life every single day and what is responsible for allowing me to return to my feet after injury so often. I don’t like to go negative unless I need to.

Seeing as I view movies and television shows as entertainment I am, more often than not, entertained by them. I simply cannot bring myself to take a hatchet to the spine of something I enjoyed watching. I’m not going to make the argument that The Expendables 2, which I saw in theaters, is a great piece of cinema. I’m similarly not going to lie and say I did not enjoy watching it – I thought it was the perfect thing to shut my brain off and enjoy. If you asked me point blank I’d probably say I liked the movie, before having to describe that this was separate from how I liked a movie like American Hustle.

My friend Garrison Norton had made a comment a few months ago that I seemed to like every movie I saw while I was in college. He had a point, I would almost always come back with a positive review. In my defense, this was partially because I did my homework. I was not about to waste time and money on a movie I knew was subpar. Even though I actively wanted to see Runner, Runner last year I never looked up show times. Why? Because enough people who’s opinions I trust said the movie was “unwatchable.” Pass. Instead I would have weeks where I’d see Captain Phillips and Twelve Years a Slave within days of each other. To be fair, both movies were Best Picture nominees, so having a positive reaction was to be expected.

But that’s what I already knew. This was old news while I ate wasabi peanuts while watching Rust Cohle walk through the Louisiana marsh land. I fully understand that how I watch movies and TV shows is backwards. I’m watching for the characters almost always.

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I am far more interested in the people created within these movies than I am what’s going on in them. Obviously there are a ton of exceptions to this, but it’s what I focus on more or less. For example, take the aforementioned American Hustle. The plot to it was fairly complicated and almost purposely misleading for the sake of the plot. This led to some of my friends vehemently hating the movie last year. Meanwhile it was one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. This was almost entirely because David O’ Russell gets incredible performances out of his actors. It makes sense to me that I loved the movie the day I watched it and all four main characters went on to nab Oscar nominations. They were electric and kept my eyes on the screen the entire time. I was far more interested in the overconfidence of Bradley Cooper’s Richie DiMaso, and watching him become that character, than I was about, say the sting they were pulling off on multiple politicians.

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I loved watching True Detective because it featured two fascinating characters, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, played by two of my favorite actors, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively. While I love murder plots, especially serial murderers, I was fascinated by the brilliant insanity of Cohle and the dark realism of Hart. Watching them play off each other was electric. My favorite parts of the series were the moments when they’d draw the contrast between each other’s personalities simply by being alive. Well, that and the long take in episode four.

The plot to the show was highly interested and, admittedly, fairly confusing. I didn’t mind. It was less about the crime than watching them solve it. That’s why I loved the show.

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The more I pondered this discovery while moving onto my mid-flight Kit Kat bar, the more I started to think about my other favorite television shows from this summer. Just a month ago I finished House of Cards. For all of my life I have had a propensity to root for the villain in the story without a clear explanation past “because I like them.” In reality, it’s because the villain is always more interesting, at least in any good show/movie. Frank Underwood is one of my favorite television characters because he is electric, devious, and fascinating. I can’t turn away when he’s on screen. The plot to House of Cards is crazy, but I watched every episode with a giant grin as Kevin Spacey continued to be amazing.

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Not much earlier before this revelation I had finished listening to Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and again, it’s light on plot. In truth its a character study not only of the three protagonists – Mitch, Julia, and Horace – but the town around them. I’m fascinated by the world created.

And that’s the key. I love when I feel immersed by the world and the characters present. I feel as though I know how to roughly navigate the streets of the fictitious Owl, North Dakota. I feel like I could be of assistance to the campaign of Frank Underwood. I feel like I could bounce ideas off the brains of the two weirdest cops in the south. That’s why I love these shows. And that love makes it impossible for me to be objective, at least for the sake of this website. But that is okay with me. I’m happy liking what I like. I don’t need to be a critic.

Besides, objectivity is overrated.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

Goal

By: Connor Lenahan

I don’t cry all that often. It’s not all that easy to bring me to tears. I normally have control.

Then there are moments like the video above. There are stories like that of Xander Bailey, an 18 year old suffering from cystic fibrosis, having their dreams come true at the hand of the Make-a-Wish foundation. In this case, Bailey wished to become a professional soccer player. This is a gargantuan request.

A gargantuan request that was granted. Bailey took the field as a starter for the Seattle Sounders alongside Clint Dempsey in front of a crowd of over 55,000 people. He took the first shot of the game against the visiting Tottenham Hotspur FC. With this shot, his career ended. Even though it was seconds long, it is one of the sweetest things in this world.

The fact that the Seattle Sounders not only let Xander Bailey join the team, but actually log time in a professional match, is heartwarming beyond words. The Sounders made a huge dream come true. This is everything right with the universe.

This makes everything brighter. This makes today a good day, no matter what happens. Try not to cry at this, it’s impossible.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

On Boyhood

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By: Connor Lenahan

I wrote a few months ago about wanting to see the movie Boyhood. I got the chance to do so this afternoon.

I can safely say that this movie, the one filmed over the course of 12 years, retaining the same cast, all playing one family, aging naturally, is one of the best movies I have seen in my life. This isn’t just a good in the moment movie, this is an accomplishment of art. This will stand the test of time as one of the most ambitious and best executed films ever.

There’s not much else I can say. It’s just life. That’s what makes it incredible. It’s reality in the best possible way. It’s three hours long. It could have been twelve and I would have been smiling through it. This is seriously incredible.

Please, if you have the chance, go see this movie as soon as you possibly can. It’s more than worth your time. I cannot say enough good things about this. We have something special in front of us here.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

Shutting Down

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By: Connor Lenahan

Every day I have to try and find something new to write about for the daily article. This is actually easier than it seems – things keep happening in the world. Stories break, things are announced, things happen, I have material. This is because even though it’s the summer people are working. That is, Monday to Friday.

See, it becomes almost impossible for me to find things during the summer in which to write about on the weekends. Why? Because I don’t do anything. This morning I woke up and watched Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO Go until I got hungry enough that the bag of Chex Mix on my side would not suffice. Nothing eventful happens on the weekends. It’s a time for relaxation.

I run around a lot during the week doing things that range from necessity (eating, my job, showering) to trivial (pretty much everything I do in my free time). I am quite literally running all around Boston in my wheelchair. Because it’s exhausting to quite literally push the wheelchair an absurd amount of miles daily in the summer heat, I take days to just shut down.

The best medical advice I can give anyone would be don’t eat poison. A close second would be to take days to just let your body recover. I can push hard during the week because I’ve had days where the extent of my pushing is getting up to use the restroom. This keeps recharges energy and allows for fatigue to reset. That is just about the only reason I can push my chair nine miles a day during the work week without batting an eyelash.

On vacation we would be active all day every day. Because I was no longer the only person in charge of my schedule as I am in Boston, my routine for rest days/times was thrown askew. What happened? On more than one occasion I had my body quit on me from exhaustion. It’s like a pitcher in baseball; I can come out throwing heat regularly, but I need the recovery in there too. On our last day in Dublin I absolutely shut down from two weeks of running around and heavy plane travel. I needed to lie down, eat a Cadbury bar, and do nothing.

That’s how I spent my day today. It was glorious. And that is why I’m essentially writing an apology for why I don’t have anything interesting to say today. It’s because I consciously chose to make my day uninteresting.

It’s a more liberating choice than you’d ever realize. Give it a try tomorrow if you can. You might just find a new part of your life’s routine.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

Heartbreak and Pepperoni

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By: Connor Lenahan

I was only gone a few days. I had eaten at Sal’s Pizza, conveniently located just a few blocks from my house, the night before I began my vacation. It was the perfect send off for my trip. Saying goodbye to Boston with my favorite pizza of all time at my favorite restaurant in Boston.

I didn’t realize the extent of the goodbye I was saying.

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Earlier today I led a group of wide-eyed youngins on what was supposed to be their first trip to the legendary Sal’s across from my house in Fenway. When we approached I noticed that the sign outside was not up. Then I looked in the window.

Darkness there, and nothing more.

I somehow didn’t end up crying or breaking my phone in anger. Just like that my favorite place in the entire city, if not the entire world, was gone. It was so young. So tasty. So beautiful. It didn’t have to die this way, not like this. I should have been with her when she served her final slice, preferably into my tummy.

There will be action. There will be justice. God as my witness those unconsumed pepperonis will be avenged.

Today I endured the greatest heartbreak I’ve had in some time. Tomorrow begins the healing process.

I appreciate your support in this trying time.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

Ready to Learn

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By: Connor Lenahan

I’m about to say something that the elementary school, middle school, and high school versions of myself would disown me for: Can we just start the school year already?

While I have been enjoying my summer in Boston an extreme amount, I have found that having an absurd amount of free time can actually get quite boring. I mean, today I finished work at 1 PM. By 2 I was eating sushi in my bed while listening to an audiobook. I haven’t left my building since. There hasn’t been a need for me to. I won’t walk out the front door of Kilachand Hall again until I leave for Rhett’s Night Out later this evening.

I’m not against having free time, but given that I don’t have an astonishing amount of things to do with my day – certainly nothing all that time consuming – I am perpetually in search of ways to spend my time. I need to find ways to be both productive and entertained. After weeks on end of binge watching TV I just can’t do it. Ditto to audiobooks, as I started and finished three on my twelve day vacation last week. I just need variety.

My week really picks up whenever we have an orientation session on campus. Then there are hundreds of unfamiliar faces to meet and interact with. If I’m lucky, I will know a couple of people coming to the session and have someone to hang out with. This week I get to goof around with my friends Sally Kim, Claire Coffey, and Luis Castro. Once they are gone I will be asking the same question, “why can’t they just stay and have the school year start now?”

I miss my friends that have either briefly visited over the summer or are not due to return to Beantown until August. I like hanging out with these people. It’s sad to make the transition from Warren Towers, in which I was steps away from some of my closest friends at BU, to the summer, in which that distance is now hundreds of miles.

Of course, I love my friends that are here for the summer. That’s been able to keep me more than happy. It’s just hard to spend almost an entire year on a campus filled with 16,000+ people and then suddenly have that number drop below 3,000 at any given moment. It is a tad bit eerie, and it’s certainly odd. I shouldn’t be able to walk on the sidewalk as easily as I have recently.

Call me crazy, but I even miss classes. More accurately, I miss going to class and pretending to pay attention. Somehow, this made all those games of 2048 all the sweeter months ago.

I like to be busy. I like to have things to do. When the school year is not going on I am not constantly rushing around from place to place stressing about what needs to get done. Sure, this is fine for a month or so, but I actually thrive under these conditions. I think. I miss them. I am actively excited to get this year started. I think that we are in store for a great school year.

It’s a bit odd that this sudden wish for school to return came in the same afternoon that my high school, Abington Heights, announced that they will be striking, thus postponing the school year, indefinitely, starting September 11th. I believe the last time the teachers of Abington Heights had a strike I was attending Waverly Elementary School, which is quite literally in my backyard. My younger brother Cary is the last remaining member of my immediate family that attends high school, therefore he will most likely begin his sophomore year over a month after I start my own.

In a perfect world the strike at Abington never comes to fruition, the opposing sides of the conflict causing the strike finally agree, and my brother gets to get back to school. Also in that perfect world, I’ll wake up tomorrow, move into my room for the school year on the opposite end of campus, and soon be reunited with my fellow members of the BU class of 2017 while welcoming all of my friends in the class of 2018.

Sounds pretty good right?

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

Playing Fair

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By: Connor Lenahan

I wish I didn’t have to bring up this unhappy topic, but it’s bothered me for a few hours now.

I experienced the extremes of competition within a few hours earlier this evening. While waiting to play intramural softball with my co-workers I decided to drop by the practice courts for our basketball team. I found a few of our female basketball players hanging around before they would be playing pickup ball. I proceeded to shoot around with my friends Sarah Hope and Courtney Latham, alternating between taking floaters in the paint like a point guard and throwing outlet passes for threes. I did all of this from my wheelchair. The understanding was clear from all parties; I was by far the least talented player in the gym, the only non-D1 athlete, but I was playing under a different set of rules. I have to play a modified version of sports to account for safety and ability that I can do from my chair. The great part of this is that Sarah, Courtney, and everyone else I interact with gets this without me making it clear. They adapt on the fly and everyone has fun.

When I did eventually play softball half an hour later I made adjustments once again. I played two innings at catcher which is safe as it’s a slow pitch league. Other than that I’m a designated hitter. I even have pinch runners so I never have to move from my stationary batting stance. This has worked quite well. I believe I hold a batting average north of .400 for the season.

What bothers me is that the pitcher from the other team was throwing the equivalent of a knuckleball to each player. A ball that, had I swung on would have caused me to fall over, was called a strike in my first at bat. I glared at the umpire. You mean to tell me you are really going to call a borderline strike that I clearly couldn’t safely hit? Then in my next at bat the pitcher threw two balls that dropped at my front foot – impossible to hit.

Now, I understand that this is actively a competition. I flew out the first at bat and struck out the second. That is not a problem. I get that entirely. But this isn’t for money. This is for fun. The fact that someone would throw two pitches to get me off balance when he could clearly see me wearing leg braces was borderline offensive.

I’m not asking for him to let me win. I’m asking the opposite. I’m asking for him to give me a fair shot.

If I played basketball against any of my friends that actually play it wouldn’t be fun. I am incapable of moving sideways. I am also 4′ tall in my wheelchair. Shooting over someone is impossible for me. I would get blocked on every possession with no way of creating an open shot. So what do they do? They agree not to play vertical defense as my 6′ difference from the hoop and inability to elevate for a jump shot more than takes care of it naturally. This makes the game fair and fun.

Throwing me junk pitches is in bad taste. It wasn’t just me taking it the wrong way either. This rubbed every member of my team the wrong way.

Again, I’m not asking for people to suddenly rig the games so I am the 5’3″ version of Mike Trout. No, I’m asking for fair play to allow me to try to be the 5’3″ Mike Trout.

And really, is that so much to ask for?

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.

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