Andrew Cook '15

At long last, happy 2015 readers! It’s into the final lap for me now, and to prep for it, I’ve been keeping it nice and relaxed for this last Christmas break. Incidentally, while I’m on the subject, this business of a 5-6 week vacation carries on into the real world as well, yes? This is something I’ll still be able to look forward to for years and years? Whew, that’s a relief.

Well anyways, one of my favorite ways to relax over break is by watching movies – seriously, who doesn’t love that?? – and since movie-watching usually takes a pretty serious hit while the semester’s in session, I made it a priority to catch up on a bunch now that I’ve got the time for it. Since I’ve been itching to get back writing here, and for lack of anything more interesting for you all, here are some quick little blurbs on all the flicks I’ve been able to catch!

 

In cinemas…

Unbroken
Unbroken
An adaptation of what my dad tells me is his favorite book he’s ever read, this one gains points on the sheer merit of its true-to-life hero, the incredible Olympic athlete and WWII P.O.W. Louis Zamperini. After running for the U.S. in the 1936 Olympics (which were held in Nazi Berlin), Zamperini joined the army to fight in the Pacific theater; his plane went down during a reconnaissance mission in 1943, and after spending 47 days adrift in a life raft, he was taken prisoner by Japanese soldiers and bounced around prison camps for the remainder of the war. The movie, decently directed by Angelina Jolie, is a long one, and to someone like me who’s never read the book, Zamperini’s hellish ordeals can drag on after a while. Jolie never really makes a point above and beyond how incredible Zamperini’s story is; while she’s not wrong, I think more could have been done with it to make his (and our) endurance actually mean something. If nothing else, at least you’ll never find me saying “I had a bad day” ever again.

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
BattleofFiveArmies
This one’s quite personal for me, actually. My time in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth began Christmastime 2001, when I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring in theaters. Everyone has their own defining childhood memories from pop culture – seeing Star Wars for the first time, getting your first comic book, whatever – and these movies are mine. They have become embedded into my DNA. I revisit Tolkien’s texts basically on an annual basis, I dive into the hours of behind-the-scenes bonus materials on the DVDs… heck, I only got into distance running in the first place in case my friends were ever abducted by a pack of orcs and I needed to give chase. I cherish, adore, LOVE these films, so as you might guess, I’m fairly bittersweet about it all coming to an end. It’s a heck of an end, no doubt: Peter Jackson delivers spectacle like nobody on Earth, and we’re in the safest hands from the goosebumpy opening all the way through to the end credits song. Arguments will rage over the years about the decision to expand Tolkien’s fairy story into a 3-film epic, but you’ll never hear a breath of complaint from me. From the 3rd grade to my senior year of college, following these movies has shaped me as a person, and that journey’s now made it full-circle – or Ring, if you will.

 

The Imitation Game
TheImitationGame
A stone-cold winner. Being offed by an angry bargeman within minutes of The Hobbit apparently gave leading man Benedict Cumberbatch time enough to hone a performance that will more than likely be crowding his mantelpiece with trophies in the coming awards season. His Alan Turing, the British mathematician responsible for cracking the Nazi Enigma code during WWII and the father of the modern computer, is an achievement more impressive even than his U2 photobomb at the Oscars. He’s helped by some great supporting performances from Keira Knightley and Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister, for all my Game of Thrones people) among others, and an insanely good script; when the film gets into “Turing Test” territory, exploring whether something is still capable of thought even if it deviates from what’s considered to be “normal” human brain patterns – an argument which the script BRILLIANTLY uses to examine not only artificial intelligence, but Turing’s homosexuality – it’s some of the best cinema of 2014. As the Brits say, a cracking good one.

 

At home…

A Christmas Carol (1938)
AChristmasCarol1
Check me on this, but I believe the adaptation count of Charles Dickens’ 1843 Yuletide classic is about five hundred billion. Could be more. Like I said, you should check. BUT, despite the fact that most of you reading this can quote the exchange between the miserly Scrooge and his seven-years-dead business partner verbatim, this 1938 incarnation with Reginald Owen at the helm in his nightcap and slippers is mandatory viewing for anyone who’s ever heard the phrase “Bah – humbug!” Big production values, some special effects that I’m sure were jaw-dropping in 1938, and a firm adherence to its source material earn this one high marks. But when said source material is maybe the greatest story ever penned by man, that’s certainly not a Christmas miracle.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
AmazingSpiderMan2
Sigh. There are so, so many good things here at work that I should really like this movie, but for some reason it’s just eh. I actually prefer Andrew Garfield wearing the web-shooters to Tobey Maguire; Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is perfect, a living Jack Kirby girl come right off the panel; the chemistry between them would be enough to sell any rom-com on its own; to boot, this is probably the best Spidey action we’ve seen to date, the full realization of what Stan Lee was probably dreaming about back in 1962. But the fact that the rest of the film pretty much cancels out all these fantastic elements should tell you all you need to know. It’s overlong, there are some annoying creative deviations from the perfectly sound comic sources, and it doesn’t seem to know when to say “enough is enough.” This franchise has been right at the forefront of all Sony Studios’ recent woes, and for the sake of my favorite superhero of all time, I really do hope it can right itself enough to keep the web-slinger in business.

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
HoundoftheBaskervilles

Sherlock Holmes, but NOT Cumberbatch’s (he’s busy elsewhere, after all). Nope, this one is Basil Rathbone’s, whom a lot of Holmesians consider to be the definitive incarnation – and outings like this are the reason why. Mist-enshrouded moors, fireplace séances , murderous, bug-eyed convicts on the loose… this one’s got it all.  It plays a little fast and loose with its literary inspiration (most versions of this story usually do, for some reason), and the heavy hand of censorship required for movies of the late 30s becomes too apparent at times, but lots of this is plain and simple Holmes at his deerstalker best. Perfect for a windy winter afternoon viewing.

 

From Russia with Love
FromRussiawithLove1
As the final entry of what I suddenly realize is a predominantly Anglophilic list, I think it’s fitting that I close with perhaps the single most iconic British character from the second half of the 20th century. That’s Bond… James Bond. I’m a big fan of 007, and if you can keep a secret, 2012’s superb Skyfall is one of my very favorite movies I’ve seen in the last five years. With that outing imparting the solid advice that the old ways are sometimes still the best, I’ve been backtracking 007’s history whenever I have enough free time, and so came across this firework. It’s not the first Bond film (it’s #2, if you’re curious), but it’s what many Bond enthusiasts today consider to be the all-time best, and with good reason. Set at the height of Cold War espionage, it’s Sean Connery in his wisecracking, ladykilling prime, and it introduces most of what would later come to be staples in 007 flicks; a suitcase with more firepower than some prison armories, exotic locations in Istanbul and on the Orient Express, a KNOCKOUT leading lady, and the looming, shadowy threat of SPECTRE. With current-Bond Daniel Craig suiting up for what’s looking to be another incredible spin in the Aston later on this year, I can’t recommend enough taking a look back at this 60s classic; it’s leaner, wittier, and more downright fun than pretty much anything else you’ll come up against, I’ll wager. Mission accomplished, Mr. Bond.

 

That’s all I’ve managed for now; break still has a few weeks left, so if there’s anything you think I need to add to this list, feel free to let me know! Happy viewings!!

No, that title is not a misspelling of the Holy Cross fight song… After four years, trust me that I know exactly what a “HOYA” is. Instead, it’s in reference to an honest-to-goodness idol of mine who stopped by the Hogan ballroom last night, whom I had the absolute privilege to meet afterwards.

It was none other than ultra-marathoner,  triathlete, and father extraordinaire, Dick Hoyt

It was none other than ultra-marathoner, triathlete, and father extraordinaire, Dick Hoyt!!

For anyone who doesn’t know the incredible story, Dick is the self-called “slower half” of the Team Hoyt running duo. His son Rick is severely disabled with cerebral palsy after birth complications, and as such has never been able to walk or talk in his life. When Rick was in high school, he asked his dad if he could help him participate in a charity 5k run to benefit a classmate who’d been paralyzed from the waist down; in the decades since that first request, Dick’s pushed his son across the finish line of more than 1100 races, including 32 Boston Marathons, 6 IronMan ultra-triathlons, and a “Forrest Gump”-esque run literally across the country (that’s 3770 miles at once, for anyone wondering).

Team Hoyt's slogan is the empowering belief "Yes You Can"

Team Hoyt’s slogan is the empowering belief “Yes You Can”

Dick, a former serviceman who’d never been a runner in his life, is ranked by Men’s Health Magazine as the 24th fittest man of all time — Rick was ranked 25, which Dick jokes is the only time he’s ever finished ahead of his son. The pair faced enormous adversity when they began racing in the 80s, with race organizers saying there was no place for the handicapped Rick to compete, but they’ve now risen to being one of the premier athletic duos in the world. Heroes in places like El Salvador, Germany, and Japan, the two have revolutionized the roadracing industry to the point where Dick believes that, “in the next few years, don’t be surprised if there’s races where you’ll only be allowed to enter if you’re pushing a handicapped person.”

They've even been awarded the enormously prestigious Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2013 ESPYs Sports Awards ceremony

They were even awarded the enormously prestigious Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2013 ESPYs Sports Awards ceremony

As someone who does his fair share of physical activity, let me just tell you that this man competes on another plane of existence; for anyone thinking they’re in OK shape, go see one of these talks and you’re in for a rude awakening. The pair have worked out an equipment system for their triathlons that allows Rick to be present for every stage of the race:

For swims, Dick literally tows his son behind him in a custom-built raft as he cuts through 2+ miles of waves

For swim portions, Dick literally tows his son behind him in a custom-built raft as he cuts through 2+ miles of waves

After carrying his son sometimes more than a quarter mile from the water to a changing station, the two set out on a specially-designed bike for 100+ mile jaunts through volcano fields. Dick pedals the bike, which can be in excess of 400 pounds at times, up craters and across vistas in heat that can exceed 110 degrees.

After carrying his son sometimes more than a quarter mile from the water to a transition station, the two set out on a specially-designed bike for 100+ mile jaunts through volcano fields. Dick pedals the bike, which can be in excess of 400 pounds at times, up craters and across vistas in heat that can exceed 110 degrees.

And then, once that’s all out of the way, all they have left to do is complete a 26.2 mile marathon run. Simple, really.

It’s in his capacity as a marathon runner that Dick is a true inspiration of mine. Both the times I’ve done the Boston Marathon, there’s usually a point circa-mile 15 or 16 where my legs start to feel like lead, and my morale bottoms out with the knowledge that I’ve got the dreaded Heartbreak Hill stretch right in front of me. Both times, however, I’ve suddenly come across the father-son pair, surrounded by a crowd of dozens of runners, and seeing their perseverance and tenacity always kicks me back into shape. It actually meant quite a lot to me being able to tell Mr. Hoyt this in person last night.

Sadly, Rick and Dick were prevented from finishing the 2013 marathon because of the bombings at the finish line they were stopped by police at mile 25 and told they'd be unable to finish that last mile to the finish line. It was supposed to have been their final marathon together.

Sadly, Rick and Dick were prevented from finishing the 2013 marathon because of the bombings at the finish line; they were stopped by police at mile 25 and told they’d be unable to finish the last mile (I can’t even IMAGINE coming that far and not being able to bring it home). It was the right call by police, and both Rick and Dick thank God for their safety, but it was supposed to have been their final marathon together.

Absolutely nothing can deter these two, however, so Dick - now 74 years young - rallied and pushed Rick in this year's 2014 running. Team Hoyt (pictured) was the largest group to ever cross a marathon finish line simultaneously in marathon history.

As I hope I’ve made clear, however, absolutely nothing can deter these two, so Dick – now 74 years young – rallied and pushed Rick again in this year’s 2014 running. Team Hoyt (pictured) was the largest group to ever cross a finish line simultaneously in marathon history.

As a runner, and more recently as a marathoner, I’ve known about these guys for quite some time, so it really was a pretty big deal to me to be in the same room. When you hear about them, father and son, facing and CONQUERING the kinds of obstacles they have, it really does put things into perspective; I’m as prone as anyone to stress during finals season, but at the end of the day, it’s really small-ball compared to stuff like this. So to leave you for now, I’ll wish you all the best of luck on your finals and/or anything else keeping you from your Yule festivities, and just remember, when it’s 3am and you think you’ve bottomed out on your paper assignment:

YES - YOU - CAN!

YES – YOU – CAN!

Last Friday was a BIG mile marker on the way to graduation next spring, one that came in the midst of a week of “lasts.” I had my last class registration last Monday, took my senior cap’n’gown portraits, and experienced my last football game on Fitton Field as a current Crusader. Throw that in with a little sister interviewing at the Admissions department and a mind-blowing lecture on the cosmos from visiting guest lecturer and astrophysicist extraordinaire Neil deGrasse Tyson *gasps for air* and it all makes for a pretty insane schedule. It was high time then, to loosen up the tie and relax – except in this case, that meant tightening the tie, actually. The bowtie, to be specific (because bowties are cool). This is all a roundabout way of my saying SENIOR BALL TIME!!

"♫  And as long as I got my suit and tie/I'ma leave it all on the floor tonight/And you got fixed up to the nines/Let me show you a few things♫"

“♫  And as long as I got my suit and tie/I’ma leave it all on the floor tonight/And you got fixed up to the nines/Let me show you a few things♫”

All kinds of star power going on here

All kinds of star power going on here

MVC buds

MVC buds

We clean up mighty nice

We clean up mighty nice

Cousins make the best wingmen.

Cousins make the best wingmen.

This is why I'm usually not invited to these kinds of things

It’s reasons like this why I’m usually not invited to these kinds of things

How's this compare to life abroad, Shea?

We smile for the cameras -

Blech

– but really, we can’t stand each other

Hey Mamma!

Hey Mamma!

What's about to unfold is the shortest, most one-sided fight in human history

What’s about to unfold is the shortest, most one-sided fight in human history

Miss Working for Worcester herself

Miss Working for Worcester herself

I WILL find my way into your photos, and they WILL be bombed.

I WILL find my way into your photos, and they WILL be bombed.

Harry and I with the happiest girl on campus (and fellow Disney nut) Jess Bailot

My roommate Harry and I with the happiest girl on campus (and fellow Disney nut) Jess Bailot

The Gladiator Squad, reuinted

The Gladiator Squad, reunited. Venimus, Vidimus, Vincimus.

The marathon runner and the fella who patches him up in the EMT med tents along the race course. You're (literally) a life-saver Mr. Safran!

The marathon runner and the fella who patches him up in the EMT med tents along the race course. You’re (literally) a life-saver Mr. Safran!

Ben, clearly itching to get started with dinner

Ben, clearly itching to get started with dinner

Shea and her boys

Shea and her boys

Gentlemen of Williams 506

Gentlemen of Williams 506

These dances, man. They kill you.

This is what a crash after four hours of dancing looks like.

Shaken... Not stirred.

Shaken… Not stirred.

It’s pretty surreal now that it’s all over… that’s a big senior year event now fading away in the rearview mirror. Allons-y though, and always forward and up! Thanks to everyone who made it the all-out party it was, I wish we did it more often! I’ll be checking in after Thanksgiving, so until then, happy turkey hunting!!

As detailed in the last post, the first half of my fall vacation was devoted to cramming in all the stereotypical fall activities I could think of into a few short days. That’s because the Cook family took to the skies and headed down to sunny Florida for the second half! Yes, it was time for another trip back to the Most Magical Place on Earth to take part in their Halloween festivities down there. We were all straight-out over this last summer and so didn’t have time for our usual family vacation, but between our trip down there earlier this year for the Disney Marathon weekend (you may perhaps remember seeing some of those adventures on this blog) and this last getaway, I’d say we did alright.

Besides never having been down in the fall before, we also had the novelty this trip to bring along my Aunt Kathleen and cousin Joey Goddard. They’re Disney-diehards of their own right, and they’d been asking for years to accompany us down on a trip, so we couldn’t have been more excited to have them on board.

Christmas cards all around!

Christmas cards all around!

Staying at the gorgeous (and GIGANTIC) Coronado Springs resort, we spent a whirlwind three days traveling through the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and – my personal favorite – EPCOT. Not all of what transpired therein will (or should) be shared with the general public, but needless to say, we all had as good a time as you can be expected to have in Disney… which is to say, the best time! Some highlights then:

Like I said, the hotel was a paradise. Or I'm assuming so, since a lot of it was seen through closed eyelids like this.

Like I said, the hotel was a paradise. Or I’m assuming so, since a lot of it was seen through closed eyelids like this.

Before heading off to the Parks, I needed a quick wake-up jolt. This did the trick alright.

Before heading off to the parks, I needed a quick wake-up jolt. This did the trick alright.

Or if not that, then this. Yeah. Definitely this.

Or if not that, then this. Yeah. Definitely this.

One of the main reasons we’d come down in October in the first place was to experience Disney at the spookiest time of year; in the Magic Kingdom, that meant going to “Mickey’s Not-so-scary Halloween Party.” AKA, trick’or’treating in Disney World. Which, you might imagine, can be a bit of a highlight of one’s existence on planet Earth, all things considered. Costumes being a necessity, we began plotting weeks ahead of time what to do. We wanted something we could do as a group, and with six of us, it was tough trying to find something that would accommodate everyone. But then the light went on.  “Really,” we had to ask ourselves, “could it have ever been anything else?”

Yes, we all went as members of the Avengers. Yes we did. And yes, you're jealous.

Yes, of course we all went as members of the Avengers. Yes we did. And yes, you’re jealous.

Grim grinning ghosts came out to socialize during the course of the night. This one in particular wouldn't let me get away

Grim grinning ghosts came out to socialize during the course of the night. This one in particular wouldn’t let me get away.

And then, obviously, I had to dance at a rave with Cinderella's step-sister, Anastasia Tremaine. Nothing wicked about her except her dance moves. We've all done this at some point, right?

And then, obviously, I had to dance with Cinderella’s step-sister, Anastasia Tremaine, at a rave. Nothing wicked about her except her dance moves. We’ve all done this at some point, right?

From Magic Kingdom, it was onto Hollywood Studios, where there was another kind of scary waiting for us. I'd never been to a cult gathering before, until I went to the Frozen live show there and watched as 2000+ girls power-balladed "Let It Go" in perfect unison.

From Magic Kingdom, it was onto Hollywood Studios, where there was another kind of scary waiting for us. I’d never been to a cult gathering before, until I went to the new Frozen live show and watched as 2000+ girls power-balladed “Let It Go” in literally perfect unison. Somewhere, Adele Dazeem was smiling, I meanwhile was just perplexed. Let it go, Andrew, let it go…

THIS is much more my speed.

THIS is much more my speed.

As I near the end of senior year, is it acceptable yet to pass in my employment application?

As I near the end of senior year, is it acceptable yet to pass in my employment application?

On the last day, the six of us headed over to the annual EPCOT Food and Wine Festival to partake in the native cuisine of twenty four countries there, represented by food huts in the park’s world showcase. Walking through the gates, I got the feeling that my twenty-one years had been spent in unknowing preparation for that one moment, like a runner before a race. I’ve got the meal schedule of a hobbit, in case anyone’s forgotten.

Challenge. Accepted.

Challenge. Accepted.

The other side of the Christmas card

The other side of the Christmas card

For the sake of pride and dignity, I won’t delve into how much was eaten/drunk over the course of the day. It was a lot, lose no sleep wondering about it. Among some of the highlights were the Brazilian pork, the Canadian steak, the Greek gyro, the Scottish haggis and cranachan, the Hawaiian pulled pork, the New Zealand venison, the Belgian waffles… sorry, I lost control there for a second. Back now. But for the treks we did around the parks each day, I shudder to think how much weight we’d each have gained by the end of it all (or, maybe, how much MORE weight is more accurate). But the way I saw it, I had to be diplomatic; not eating at any one country would have been a major offense. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night, causing an international incident like that. Safest to eat at each and every single one of them, am I right?

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This one's for you, Bumpa. Sláinte to the motherland!!

This one’s for you, Bumpa. Sláinte to the motherland!!

Olé

Olé

Heather, clearly upset that Mom's not sharing

Heather, clearly upset that Mom’s not sharing this Belgian waffle

The one hurdle of the day came in France. If not for my iron will, I don't think I'd have been able to get down this escargot.

The one hurdle of the day came in France. If not for my iron will, I don’t think I’d have been able to get down this escargot. Bon dieu.

Eating your way around the world is tough work

Eating your way around the world is tough work

If I was the bragging type, I'd have bought this shirt on the spot.

If I was the bragging type, I’d have bought this shirt on the spot.

Mission accomplished. I should be a shoo-in for the next UN goodwill ambassador, with credentials like this

Mission accomplished. I should be a shoo-in for the next UN goodwill ambassador, with credentials like this

Even though we’ve been down a few times now, I don’t think I’ll EVER get sick of vacationing in Disney. There’s always new or added things we’ve yet to experience, and it’s always a pleasure doing it with my fellow Avengers. We all just have the best times down there, and this trip wasn’t one to break the pattern. Getting on the plane in Orlando in 90 degrees and touching down in Manchester, NH, to 50 degree temps was admittedly a little rough, and a lot of the last week has been spent playing catch-up, but it was worth every minute of it in the end. When can we go back???

Wishing a very spooky October to everyone – sorry it’s been a little while since checking in, but as is usually the case when I’ve got long gaps between posts, I filled the time with plenty of material to write about. So much so, in fact, that there are gonna be several rapid fire posts coming your way, this being the first of them. And while school is phenomenal as always, and the time before Holy Cross’ fall break saw me taking a first crack at writing children’s stories (it’s a BLAST), all of what you’re about to read happened when I headed home for some R&R. Except, if that’s how vacations are to be judged, this one wouldnt’ve ranked very highly. I’ll let you make the call if the trade off was worth it in the end…

On my very first morning back in my hometown of Lowell, MA, I hit the streets of the downtown area for a 10 mile training run with the 2014 Lowell Police Academy class. My dad’s been helping train upcoming cadets with their fitness conditioning by serving as a run instructor since the Academy began all the way back in 1997. Ever since I caught the running bug a few years ago, I’ve tagged along pretty regularly. It’s amazing to see these people – some of whom never ran a step in their lives before the Academy started session in June – completing a 10 mile loop around Lowell’s famous Merrimack River like it was cake. Massachusetts readers, rest at ease knowing that these cadets are graduating in a few weeks to guard and protect your streets!

The mighty mighty LPA training staff. OOO-RAH.

The mighty mighty LPA training staff. OOO-RAH.

For reasons you are soon to find out, my time was limited while I was at home to take advantage of the kinds of fall activities New England is famous for this time of year. Not being one to waste a single opportunity, the first few days of fall break were filled with the kind of fall sincerity that would do Linus van Pelt justice. First up: apple picking.

There was a very real danger of my not being able to participate in any more fall activities - that pose was as hard to get out of as you'd imagine

There was a very real danger of my not being able to participate in any more fall activities after this shot – that position was as hard to get out of as you’d imagine

Enjoying postcard-perfect October weather, I drove my cousin John and aunt Annie out to the Honeypot Hill Orchard in nearby Stow, MA, a town famous for its numerous apple-picking farms. The contest of the afternoon soon turned into John and I seeing who could put themselves in more mortal peril by balancing on the slimmest tree  twigs branches available to reach a single lone apple; really, I think we can all agree, an apple just tastes better if the possibility of snapping your neck was involved in the picking of it. And if a few apples needed to be consumed on the way back to the farm to lighten the load, I took it on myself to undertake that solemn task. The fresh pickin’s were then transformed into all manner of pies, crisps, and other baked goods, but I’m not usually as involved in that part of the process – I just eats them all at the end.

Finally, a Columbus weekend tradition that’s started in the last few years that I’m quite a fan of, my dad and I shouldered our packs for another mountain climb. We’ve done Monadnock, Wachusett, Watatic, the Kangamangus Highway, and continuing the pattern of non-repetition, this year was Pack Mondanock (a different hill entirely from the first one I just mentioned there). I really won’t hear any other opinions on this, you are MISSING OUT if you’re from the New England area and aren’t taking full advantage of adventures like this.

The signs were there early that we had a challenging ascent ahead of us

The signs were there early that we had a challenging ascent ahead of us

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Hardy, rugged mountain men

Hardy, rugged mountain men

The views, man, I'm telling you. You just can't beat 'em.

The views, man, I’m telling you. You just can’t beat ‘em.

Fatigued by the climb, I became delusional and thought I had already conquered the summit

Fatigued by the climb, I became delusional and thought I had already conquered the summit

Once we had reached the top, we had an amazing 360 degree perch from which to view the surrounding counties through buffets of wind gusts. We even got all artsy and such:

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And finally, Dad giving proof to the old adage that, "What comes up, must come back down."

And finally, Dad giving proof to the old adage that, “What comes up, must come back down.”

LOTS more to come, so (and this is even good by way of a coming attraction… how’s that for multi-tasking?) “See ya real soon!”

Happy Fall everyone! One month into senior year here, I’m trudging through such terrible tasks as film analysis of The Godfather (it’s a little Indie flick, you’ve probably never even heard of it) and in-depth dissections of the comic theory in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (of which there is a considerable amount). I am STRAIGHT OUT, I’m telling you. To prevent burnout, I’m always looking for different ways to de-stress, usually in an outdoorsy/exercise type venue. Last Friday, then, it was off on a school-organized expedition to the nearby Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, MA! As an adventurer – why are you laughing? – the Chasm is something that I’ve always wanted to check out during my time at Holy Cross, and as you’re more than likely to discover in subsequent blogs, a big part of senior year for me is gonna be ticking items like this off the bucket list.  So with my friend Shea Maunsell ’15 in tow, it was wagons ho!

I confess, I didn’t really know what to expect going into Purgatory – incidentally, doesn’t the name just fill you up with that warm, fuzzy feeling? I had a preconceived notion of a mildly rocky nature trail, the kind you’re likely to find me running on this time of year under the New England foliage. Turns out that it’s not exactly a running trail per se, but there are a few rocks scattered here and there over the terrain, so I was right about that at least.

Yeah, right.

Yeah, right.

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I think I know why they call it "Purgatory" now

Yep, you could definitely call this one a little rocky.

Turns out, Purgatory Chasm is a pretty far stretch away from a casual leisure stroll. Hikers need to scramble up cliff faces and navigate through boulder fields to make it through the trail, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a solid upper body workout at times. And it is unbelievable. Like I said, I’d never made the trip before, and I seriously regret it now. The excursion had an hour time limit, but I could’ve kept walking around there all day if I had the chance, exploring all the different path offshoots and – to turn a phrase from Mother Superior – climbing every mountain.

It was great to go and just hang out for a while. Over the edge of a 75-foot drop.

It was great to go and just hang out for a while. Over the edge of a 75-foot drop.

"Shea?? Is that you over there?? You're on the wrong side!!"

“Shea?? Is that you over there?? You’re on the wrong side!!”

I'm the blue speck on the side of the cliff there

I’m the blue speck on the side of the cliff there

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"Mountains can do funny things to a man."

“Mountains can do funny things to a man.”

This is what I believe they refer to as "a tight spot."

I’ve heard of, “caught between a rock and a hard place,” but this is ridiculous

Take the picture, then throw down a rope. Please...

Take the picture, then throw down a rope. Please…

Shea's not about to let this cramp her style

Shea’s not about to let this cramp her style

It's always useful to have a friend along in tight spots like this

It’s always useful to have a friend along in tight spots like this

During the course of the afternoon, we teamed up with James Cannon ’17 and Hannah Solomons ’18 to fend off attacks from such ferocious woodland beasts as a miniscule rattlesnake and leaping riverbed frogs (all lethally toxic, you can be sure). At the end of the day, I can happily say we took probably the most challenging route back to the bus available. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!

DON'T DO IT SHEA!! DON'T JUMP!!

DON’T DO IT SHEA!! DON’T JUMP!!

Thumbs-up all around for a fantastic adventure!

Thumbs-up all around for a fantastic adventure!

To anyone looking for that early-Fall stress break, then, Purgatory Chasm, for your consideration: a labyrinth of sheer rock walls and cliff formations that can keep you sweating for an entire afternoon… When can I go back??!?

Every once in a while, I can pay attention long enough to stop thinking about the latest episode of Doctor Who or my upcoming 1/2 marathon and talk about something more grown-up instead; this, ladies and gentlemen, is one of those rare times. I stopped over the other day at the annual Holy Cross Summer Research Symposium to check out what some of my fellow Crusaders had spent their summers doing, and let me tell you: if you think YOU had a productive summer, prepare for an ego check! I like to think I’ve got enough brain cells to maintain average conversation, but it was all I could do to process the AMAZING work some of my peers had conducted over the last few months. Hailing from every imaginable subject and major, the research on display ranged from potential cancer cures to the societal role of decapitation in Shakespearean drama (I didn’t even know one existed, so thank heavens a brighter soul than mine was able to figure it out). Best of all, many of the presenting scholars were some very good friends, so here today I rounded up a collection of them, to give them all the just credit they deserve!

Only just back from a year of studying abroad at the Universidad de Palma, Spain, Mr. Martin Florimon ’15 wasted no time at all and dived right into a summer research position with the Autism Speaks organization in New York City.
Martin1Focusing his study on the lower diagnosis rate of Hispanic/Latino children with Autism, Martin proposed several explanations and even solutions for this deficit. The world of psychology will only grow brighter once Martin walks across the Fitton Field stage next May!
Martin2

Next up, Ms. Meaghan McGeary ’16, who took a break from pounding the pavement around Mt. St. James with the Holy Cross Running Club and set up shop at the Lupus Center of Excellence in Pittsburgh, PA, for the summer. Meaghan1Working with a team of forerunner scientists and brand new computer technology, Meaghan conducted tests aimed at identifying early cellular indicators of lupus and other autoimmune diseases. I always knew Meaghan was science minded as soon as, on literally the first day of running club practice, she took me through the stages of anaerobic respiration our legs were undergoing as we ran up College Street.  I’m still just trying to figure out what anaerobic means.

Meaghan2

 

Next, someone who wore TWO employment hats over the summer, my fellow HC summer tour guide Ms. Jersey Burns ’16. While I came to know her as a great summer tour guide for the Admissions department (and fellow Game of Thrones fanatic), she spent her mornings in an entirely different setting.Jersey1Working with a team of peers, Jersey was engaged in – ready for this? – simulating the repair of cigarette-damaged lungs through the growth of stem cells in one of HC’s bio labs. I know she’s not keen on the spotlight, but seriously Jersey… that’s pretty cool.

One of my longest-known friends, who I met eons ago way back on the first day of high school, Mr. Vannak Khin ’15.

Vannak1
After spending last semester abroad in Vietnam, Vannak gained entry into the Mellon program and conducted research for an additional five weeks there. His presentation focused on the daily struggle of small, non-corporate businesses to maintain an existence in the Vietnamese special economic zone on the Cambodian border. Ms. O’Neil would be proud, Vannak.

Vannak2

 

And lastly, the OTHER new occupant of Williams 506B, HC XC senior Mr. Joe Seebode ’15.

Joe1

With all due respect to the other presenters of the day, in terms of the one position I myself wouldn’t have minded occupying, Joe here had the winning lottery ticket. He spent his summer on the beaches of the Bald Head Island Conservatory in North Carolina, assisting nesting sea turtles. For someone who’s heading into the field of marine biology after graduation, Joe probably couldn’t have had a better hands-on experience than this one.

Holy Cross is known for a myraid of things, from athletics to community service, but events like this Symposium serve as great reminders that, above all else, this is one of the strongest academic schools around. None of these scholars were forced or pressured into doing the work they did; they chose it out of deep passion, and all of it was on display that afternoon. Just walking around the posters, I could practically feel myself becoming more and more smrt!!!

 

 

Hey everyone! A fun late summer post today, and one where I yet again get to flex my muscles as HC’s resident geek authority. It’s on a topic that I’ll wager most of you have never even heard of before, but one that’s been an enormous part of my TV-watching life all the way since high school. It’s not a question of what the show is here, it’s a question of who – Doctor Who!

Before I dive into the nitty-gritty details of this post, I’ll first give you some context and background about the show, so you can understand why my Dad and I drove all the way down to NYC yesterday afternoon for a Doctor Who premiere! A disclaimer: the show is known for being cutting edge in the sci-fi world, so if that’s not your particular cup of tea (or heck, even if it is), some of the stuff I’m about to throw at you may make it sound like I’m in an altered state of mind, but I guess that’s just part of the show’s huge appeal. Doctor Who actually turned FIFTY years old last year… its first episode premiered back in November 1963, the same week as JFK’s assassination. The reason for the show’s longevity, still one of the most brilliant plot devices created in television history, is that the main character – the eponymous Doctor – is an alien from another planet, whose biology is such that every time he’s killed, he “regenerates” into a different body. AKA, every few seasons or so, the show is literally able to kill off its lead actor and recast the role, meaning it always stays fresh. Until Christmas last year, there had been eleven incarnations of the heroic Time Lord (twelve if you’re argumentative, hello John Hurt), before lead actor Matt Smith’s time in the saddle came to a tearjerking end.
So NOW: here we are today. The youthful, teenage heartthrob Matt Smith Doctor has died, and his sonic screwdriver has passed now to fifty-six year old Scottish actor Peter Capaldi! Many fans were surprised, and even skeptical, about the casting; Capaldi’s most well-known role before his casting as the Doctor was in the lead slot of the black British political comedy The Thick of It, as a VENOM-tongued spin doctor who elevated profane swearing to an incredible/terrifying artform. Hardly the stuff of the most popular family show in British history, basically.

Realizing this, and to promote the start of his tenure at the controls of the iconic TARDIS spaceship, the BBC organized a world tour for Capaldi and his co-star Jenna Coleman to greet fans and usher in the new era. Among stops like Seoul, Sydney, and Rio, the Time Lord and his human travelling companion were slated to make just one stop in the U.S., at New York City’s historic Ziegfeld theater. Diehard Whovians that we are, therefore, my Dad and I saw the announcement, nodded our heads, and shouted “Allons-y!”

It was my first time ever attending a red carpet premiere before. Although, call me Charlie Brown I guess, it wasn't even read. Much more of a TARDIS shade of blue.

It was my first time ever attending a red carpet premiere. Although, call me Charlie Brown I guess, it wasn’t even red! (The TARDIS shade of blue was much cooler though)

Of course, we couldn’t head to New York for an entire afternoon without taking in the sights and sounds. To let an opportunity like this slip by? Fugghedaboutit. In the hours before the premiere, we walked a few blocks from the theater’s off-Broadway location into the pulsing Times Square area. I’m by NO MEANS a country boy – I’ve divided my upbringing between Lowell and Worcester, two of Massachusetts’ biggest cities – but it’s still hard not to walk around NYC with your jaw on the ground. The incredible diversity of peoples, fashions, trends that populates the streets down there is pretty incredible, and one can very easily get overwhelmed by it all. More than a few times, I wasn’t quite sure if people were dressed like they were for work, or were on their way to the Doctor Who premiere in authentic alien garb. Go figure.

Heck, I even got photobombed by someone who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

Heck, I even got photobombed by someone who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

Hailing from a different part of the Galaxy, there was another Guardian with a bad temper. He would have been right at home in the NY traffic.

Hailing from a different part of the Galaxy, we met another Guardian with a bad temper. He would have been right at home in the NY traffic.

After a quick sandwich in the basement of 30 Rock, it was back to wait in the long line wrapping itself around the Ziegfeld theater block. There were people who had been camped out since midnight the night before, so needless to say, anticipation was high for everyone’s favorite Gallifreyan to show up. Capaldi and crew did not disappoint, and the atmosphere around me as he interacted with the crowd would have been enough to power the TARDIS for a whole year (but, let’s face it, time is relative…).

 

The stars!!! Jet lag never looked so darn cool.

The stars!!! Jet lag never looked so darn cool.

From there, it was past a patrolling Cyberman into the theater itself, which, luckily for the thousands who had been standing in line outside, was indeed bigger on the inside. Some of sci-fi’s biggest names were in the audience that night, along with HUNDREDS of eager Whovians; some were in costume, some were looking bemusedly at those who were, all were just relishing in the experience of it all. The Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick was our host for the evening, and to a chorus of sonic screwdrivers, we all watched as the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure began before our eyes!
I’m mum as to actual details about the episode; it’s not airing to the public until August 23rd, and Whovians are famously set against “Spoilers…” Suffice it to say, however, that all those who had been hesitant about this new Doctor have been forever silenced by one of the most truly aggressive sets of eyebrows I’ve ever seen, an accompanying Scottish brogue, and darn near one of the best episodes of television I’ve had the pleasure to watch. It may be just the exhaustion kicking in from the whole experience, but I’ll place a fair bet that there might be a new preferred M.D. around after the coming months…

And then a REAL keeper for the memory books: Hardwick came back up on stage after the episode and began a Q&A panel with none other than the stars of the show themselves!

The Doctor will see you now

The Doctor will see you now

Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and showrunner Steven Moffat (whom you all might now from his other show-biz responsibility as the co-creator of Sherlock)

Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and showrunner Steven Moffat (whom you all might know from his other show-biz responsibility as the co-creator of Sherlock)

The actors and the most gleefully "evil" man in TV were very gracious and appreciative of the support, and spent the night fielding questions from the audience

The actors and the most gleefully “evil” man in TV were very gracious and appreciative of the support, and spent the night fielding questions from the audience

Soon afterwards, they were whisked from the theater as if an angry Dalek were in hot pursuit

Soon afterwards, they were whisked from the theater as if an angry Dalek were in hot pursuit. Capaldi signed autographs and shook hands on his way out, and I got close enough to snag this (no zoom added) pic

Before security tackled him, your intrepid blogger even took a spin in the Doctor's seat! Watch out, Weeping Angels.

Before security tackled him to the floor, your intrepid blogger even took a spin in the Doctor’s seat! Watch out, Weeping Angels.

Outside the theater, an aspiring reporter for Doctor Who Review asked me to stop and give my thoughts on the episode. I’m a sucker for blondes, and this one charmed me right into giving an on-camera interview.

Katie Couric, I'd watch your seat if I were you

Katie Couric, I’d watch your seat if I were you

Apparently she liked the new Doctor "this" much.

Apparently the under-7 crowd likes the new Doctor “this” much.

An utterly fantastic evening all around, one that got me truly excited for the upcoming season of perhaps my favorite TV show. Having my Dad, the person who introduced me to it in the first place, along for the ride just sweetened the deal all the more; our adventures in time and space still make the Doctor’s look like practice.
I’ve got several Holy Cross friends who are as addicted to the show as I am, and I can’t wait to watch Capaldi win his way into their hearts over the coming semester. Having been in the room with him for an entire evening, all I can say is that, Peter, I’m with you all the way. Somebody, call a Doctor!!!!!

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2nd blog of the summer (and very possibly the last one I’ll write this side of 21), on a topic that I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about. It’s no secret how passionate I am about all things Holy Cross; three years in, I count this blog as a failure if that passion hasn’t shone through by now. Without sounding too doom and gloom and harping on it, the future of that passion as I head once more unto the breach is something I think about more than’d be decent to admit. So it’s always special for me – and I really do mean that – seeing that same Purple Pride in the incoming freshman class; it’s weird, but it’s nice to know HC is still gonna be fine, LONG after I’ve walked across that Fitton Field stage.

So for the 2nd year in a row, it was my absolute pleasure to help my local Merrimack Valley Alumni Association welcome the incoming Class of 2018! With an invite from fellow English major Martha McGuane, Class of ’77, it was over to North Andover’s St. Michael’s Parish this last weekend to meet with the newest members of ‘Sader Nation.

Know what, this is worthy enough for a cake. But maybe I'm not the best judge... I think waking up in the morning is worthy cause for one, most days.

Know what, this is worthy enough for a cake. But maybe I’m not the best judge… I consider waking up in the morning is worthy enough cause for one, most days.

Here they are, ladies and gents! Merrimack Valley's best and brightest, all in one convenient photograph

Here they are, ladies and gents! Merrimack Valley’s best and brightest, all in one convenient photograph

Remember these names, dear readers, because these’ll be some of the ones making headlines in the next few years (and I mean that in a good way): give the best, biggest Holy Cross welcome you can to Mr. Mike Gallaner, Mr. Joe Cataldo, Mr. Daniel Daley, Mr. Nick Guarracino, Mr. Will Cassella, Ms. Catherine Curran, Ms. Martina Umunna and Ms. Laura McElroy!

With about three weeks till freshman move-in day, and with the roommate and dorm pairings having just been announced, there were some obvious last-minute questions on people’s minds; after an entire summer answering similar inquiries in my position as an Admissions’ tour guide, it was a pleasure being able to do my part relieving any tension. To any other incoming freshman, yes – everything now DOES seem like it’s happening at once, I remember all too well. But don’t let the stress of everything overshadow one crucially important fact: you’re going to college! These are THOSE four years that everyone always talks about throughout their lives, and as someone for whom 3/4 of it has already happened, I can justifiably say, they ain’t lying one bit. So remember to enjoy every shower caddy purchase and Bed Bath ‘n Beyond splurge you’ve got coming, because it’s all gonna be worth it in just a few short weeks.

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There were also a plethora of other past and present Crusaders on-hand to welcome in the new kids on the block, and my genuine hope is that, by the end of the day, the Class of ’18 were as excited as I was to be heading up to the Hill.

This is what I believe they in the trade refer to as a “money shot.”

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So long now to all, my hope is that I’ll be able to get back on to this in the next few weeks before move-in into Williams Dorm for a final summer check-in. If not, I hope the rest of the summer’s a great one, and I’ll be seeing you all back on the Hill soon!