Look At Us!

Michelle and I recently had an engagement photo shoot in Battery Park…and at Midtown Comics, right here in New York. It’s the first ever such shoot at any of the Midtown Comics locations and it all came out great.

Heck, it’s so great that two major comic book sites reported on it:

All photos from the awesome Kyo Morishima.

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Look At Me!

We’ve been short on entries later due to work, the lovable Mr. Boomer and my even more lovable fiancee– life is very full of fun right now!

But here are a few of my recent appearances around the web:

  • Arune Guest Stars on Marvel.com’s Weekly Watcher: this was a fun chance to defend the honor of my former home, Canada, while also playfully insulting one of my favorite super heroes, Captain America.
  • AOL’s ComicsAlliance Interviews Arune: this was a piece about why Marvel breaks some big news in the mainstream media before it happens in comics. It was a fun piece and while I’m certainly not the decision maker in these cases– we have a lot of people working on any big PR play– I’m heavily involved and it was fun to chat about the decision process we use.
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A Good Reason To Stay Off The Internet

Meet Boomer- do I really need to say anything more? It’s amazing how an unexpected addition to the family changes everything.

And if you know you’ll wake up to this, how could you not start every day with a smile?

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My Brush With Hockey Fame

If you’ve been reading this blog, you now I’m a die-hard fan of the Montreal Canadiens– heck, it’s seemingly one of the only things I make time to blog about (though this summer I hope to blog much about my new cat named Boomer).

Earlier this year I received a copy of the latest Canadiens magazine in the mail, relaxing and reading it as I do when I receive each new issue. I received my first copy of the magazine when I was in grade school and my father brought it back from a trip to Montreal. The issue was entirely in French and while I could decipher some of it, I remember how big the magazine felt in my hands. Each big, bright image of the Canadiens felt larger than life and I flipped through that issue on many nights when I was supposed to be asleep. I wasn’t ever able to afford a subscription to the magazine till I moved to NYC and it’s one of the few things I always read from beginning to end.

Anyway, back to this issue. It was an enjoyable enough read when suddenly I turned the page and realized one of the photos seemed eerily similar to one I’d seen before. I just couldn’t figure out why.

Then five minutes later I realized I was looking at a photo of ME. I’d just been selected as the fan of the month by the official magazine of the Montreal Canadiens.


(Click on each of the below for larger versions)

Yes, that’s me with the stars of Marvel Studios Captain America: The First Avenger. I was lucky enough to meet both last year at Comic Con International in San Diego and both were very gracious, especially considering they’d just flown in from England and had to fly right back once their signing session ended.

When I submitted my entry, I mentioned that I wore my Habs gear to every comic convention I attended, attached photos of me at conventions around the US and even submitted the now infamous video of me leading an “Oh Canada” sing along at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto while decked out in Habs gear. For those not in the know, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are mortal enemies. Imagine strolling into Yankees stadium and asking fans to follow along with a guy dressed in Red Sox apparel.

Here’s that video:

Even with the celebrity photo and fun video, I can’t say I ever expected to win. I still get a smile on my face when I realize that I was honored by the Montreal Canadiens, even if the the team had little to do with it and it’s a fairly meaningless “achievement” to most. But for me, someone who’s literally bled for my love of the Canadiens (tattoos can be messy), this is something I’ll always treasure. You can bet that Michelle and I will have this magazine framed on our wall some day.

And since this article ran, the monthly fan contest has changed to one of awarding a new camera to the fan who most looks like a current Hab. So unless you think I look like Scott Gomez, this may be the last time I could’ve ever been the Montreal Canadiens fan of the month. Life works in mysterious ways, eh?

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Reviewing Reviewing

I’ve been trying to expand my own vocabulary when it comes to praising or criticizing entertainment, partly as a reaction to how much of the “drive by” reviewing I see online. That’s a bit of an over-simplification of the reviews we often read, but I can’t deny that my reaction to those reviews that’s spurned me to talk about entertainment differently.

Turns out, it’s not so easy to raise the level of my vernacular to a place where I’m comfortable.

Let me quickly say that nothing I write here is meant as a condemnation of anyone’s particular reviewing style nor is it a declaration of some universal truth about discussing entertainment. I’m merely verbalizing my thought process in order to perhaps learn a better way to review entertainment.

I often tell people that TOP GUN is my favorite movie and that’s often interpreted as “Arune thinks it’s the best movie he’s ever seen.” There’s an important distinction—“favorite” refers to my own reaction while “best” refers to some undefined criteria for determining the inherent value. I’ve often disliked the term “guilty pleasure” because I’m not sure there’s any reason to feel guilty about liking something that someone else doesn’t deem “good.” I have no interest in seeing THE KING’S SPEECH but I can’t wait to see FAST FIVE (the fifth film in THE FAST & THE FURIOUS series of films). That’s not a criticism of the former, as much as it’s a statement the latter appears to me. It’s entertainment and I want to be entertained. At the same time, a relentlessly serious television show like THE SHIELD interests me more than a lighter show like BONES. We like what we like. Limiting our discourse to “good” and “bad” does a disservice to both the entertainment and people with whom we share these conversations.

And it’s that realization of my own perspective that’s made me more conscious of how I discuss the favorite entertainment of others. Working at Marvel Entertainment, I’m reading a lot of comics and interacting with the editors behind them. If I don’t enjoy reading a comic, saying the issue “sucked” feels disrespectful to the creators involved (who I’ll often speak with frequently) and to the editor, who I know is working their butt off to make this the best comic book they can. It’s easy to forget that there are real people who make the movie, comics, etc that we consume every day, people who are affected by the things we say about their work. That isn’t to say we have to like everything or hold back our criticism, but I do feel like I have a responsibility to put some thought into what I say because there’s a heckuva lot of thought put into the work that’s created.

So the first step is to realize what I mean when I say something “sucks” or was “awesome”. I really mean to say “I didn’t enjoy this” or “I really enjoyed this”, respectively, which are much different statements than the lazy vernacular to which I’m accustomed. It’s also one that encourages a lot more stimulating discussion that a blanket statement about the inherent value of the entertainment, which can only lead to more confrontational discussions with someone who has a different reaction to the item in question.

For me, raising the level of my own critiquing requires me to stop thinking of things in the popular shorthand of “sucks” & “awesome”, instead embracing a much more patient, well-thought out verbalization of my reactions. It’s much easier to have a conversation with someone about a movie, for example, if I couch the discussion in terms of my reaction. It doesn’t immediately attack a differing point of view and keeps me open to learning from others. If I say “that was awesome” and you respond “That sucks”, we’re going to quickly get locked in a back and forth of defending our positions. If I say “that didn’t really work for me because the story felt too familiar” and you say “I loved the way they worked with familiar tropes to create something new”, we have an actual discussion about how we perceived that film.

On a much simpler level, who am I to say something automatically “sucks” if someone else enjoys it? I can point to a number of popular films that I couldn’t finish due to boredom or frustrations with certain aspects of the script. To dismiss it as without merits, as “crap”, ignores that a lack of response from me doesn’t mean a lack of response from others.

It also doesn’t really matter if we think a piece of entertainment is “good” or “bad”, does it? The important thing is for to be, well, “entertained” and I’d rather bring some positivity– or open-mindedness at least– to discussions about the things meant to bring us smiles.

Even with this all in mind, it’s not easy to actually review anything because we’ve been conditioned to react with a certain amount of hyperbole. I still catch myself saying “oh, that sucked” in conversation with friends and instantly kick myself for not remembering to actually qualify my statements. It’s not always easy to understand why we enjoy or don’t enjoy something—there’s no simple road map to our tastes. But that quest for greater understanding of our tastes can only result in becoming better people, even if now means I need to think a bit more before I speak.

Which may not be such a bad thing, eh?

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Get Well, MaxPac

Update (3/10/11): Max makes his first comments right here and holds Chara responsible.

If you’re a hockey fan, you heard about the hit to Max Pacioretty last night against the Bruins.

The details can be found here at this great article @ Yahoo’s Puck Daddy Blog.

MaxPac suffered a severe concussion and a fracture of the fourth cervical vertebra. It’s unknown if he’ll play hockey again. The Montreal Candiens set up a page where fans can send Max and his family a message. I encourage all hockey fans to click here and do so.

My prayers go out to Mac Pacioretty and his family.

While watching this game last night, it finally struck me how much I really do love the game of hockey. Don’t get me wrong—I love Michelle, our cat Andy, my family and friends more of course—but I really LOVE hockey and the Montreal Canadiens. While the Habs were up 4-0 against the Bruins and the second period was winding down, I was consumed by happiness. I was smiling without even realizing it. Every goal, every tape to tape pass, every beautiful save—they all affected me. When it comes to hockey I’m not passive—I give myself over to the game for the 2.5 hours the boys in bleu, blanc et rouge are on the ice.

But then, when MaxPac was hit and he lay motionless on the ice, I felt horrible—it was like a friend of mine was hurt. Now that’s a somewhat ridiculous statement to make, as I don’t know the guy nor do will I ever, but it’s the only way I can verbalize my reaction. Each and every one of the Canadiens play their hearts our every night, bringing honor to the “CH” on their chests and entertaining fans like me. When they succeed, we cheer them on and when they fall, we want to lift them up.

It’s safe to say that every Montreal Canadiens fan wishes he or she could do something to help the Paciorettys.

That’s the wonderful thing about being a sports fan—it consumes you. You feel as your team feels because when that game’s going on it’s all that’s going on. It’s a great feeling when you’re winning and a terrible feeling when you’re losing, but I for one wouldn’t change it for a second.

So, while we Habs fans worry about MaxPac and curse the name “Zdeno Chara” (which would be a great name for a James Bond villain), let’s focus on all the great memories he’s brought and how he’s lifted us up with all his success this year. Maybe that celebration, sharing the happiness he brought us, can put some a smile on his face.

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Now That’s How You Propose

If you want to know how I proposed to my beautiful fiancee (well, girlfriend back then), you can find out from artist Francis Manapul, one of the best comic artists of his generation. He’s an exceptionally thoughtful and generous person, whose talent is only exceeded by his kindness.

So, this may be my first update in two years, but you can’t say it wasn’t worth the wait.

And, before you worry, she said yes, making me the happiest man who’s ever lived. She is the most beautiful, kind, smart and truly amazing person I’ve ever met or will ever meet. If there was ever one person you needed to point to as proof all the good in the world, it would be her.

Update ()3/9/11):: This story has been picked up by comic press:

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The Best In WWE Right Now

I need to re-purchase Photoshop and some FTP software, so updates are limited right now, partly because I have lots of photos to upload (on which some entries depend). There will also be lots of photos from wrestling event, as I’ll be going to both Wrestlemania 25 in Houston and a WWE Smackdown! & ECW taping at the Garden in April. With this mind, it seemed good to focus on some WWE wrassling.

I could go on and on about the things in professional wrestling that I don’t like, but it probably wouldn’t accomplish a whole lot. So I thought I’d focus on my favorite things in the WWE right now:

  • Chris Jericho: He’s gotta be the best thing in wrestling right now. There’s no one better on the mic and he’s such a convincing bad guy because a) he believes he’s the good guy and b) he’s got a strong, logical framework for his actions. His feud last year with Shawn Michaels was great because everything he said about Shawn being a liar and hypocrite was correct, even though Jericho went about his revenge like a scumbag. There’s no one more enthralling in pro wrasslin right now and while no one is quite sure who he’ll face at Wrestlemania, it’s safe to say he’s a contender to steal the show. Here’s an example of his promos:

  • Randy Orton & The Legacy: This may just be the most compelling wrestling storyline I’ve seen in a long time. Randy Orton, a third generation wrestler, decides he wants to cement his legacy and “The Age of Orton” by aligning with two sons of legendary wrestlers: Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. The three accomplish a lot, including Orton winning the Rumble, till Orton snaps and attacks Vince McMahon. See it here:

    So, as it stands, this is now a personal feud with HHH, as his family has been threatened by Orton, who seems genuinely unhinged. It’s brutal, emotional and everyone is putting forth great performances. This is all about being the best in the business, about the lengths people go to in order to be the best and for sports entertainment, that’s a great story.

  • Jack Swagger: the name won’t be familiar to you, but I urge you find a copy of his battle with Christian on ECW this past week and argue that Jack isn’t one of the most promising new talents in the business. He’s got a unique look, a good technical style and knows how to work match psychology. He’s supposed to be the bad guy, but his energy is infectious and he’s so damn talented in the ring that he warrants cheers. Here’s the first part of that aforementioned match:

  • Miz & Morrison: While Tag Teams aren’t at the level of prominence they once were, the team of Miz and Morrison remind you why fans love tag action so much. They’re fun in the ring, with some of the most athletic moves you’ll see on any pro wrestling show and are a lot of fun on the mic. In an age of pseudo-real characters and very serious storylines, it’s nice to have a fun team who want to be the best—but also want to have fun, make money and get laid. Here’s one of their recent—and most exciting—matches.

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Arune Interviews Matt Striker

If you’re a wrestling fan, you know Matt Striker from ECW and I recently had the opportunity to speak with him for Marvel.Com.

Click Here To Read The Interview

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Arune.Com Will Return SOON

Folks, Arune.Com will return to regular programming soon– stay tuned for regular weekly updates. There’s a lot to write about, but for now, a few thoughts:

  • How great is the Legacy storyline on WWE Monday Night Raw?
  • College football is actually really fun to watch and I generally enjoy it more than NFL games.
  • The newest Scott Pilgrim graphic novel is out in stores– get it NOW!
  • I really haven’t much enjoyed Battlestar Galactica since the end of the New Caprica storyline.
  • Meanwhile, 24 is firing on all cylinders
  • Went on a few Hockey Trips– I shall update everyone on these soon, including my trip to this year’s Winter Classic in Chicago.
  • I’m really excited for both G.I Joe: Rise Of Cobra and the new Star Trek films.
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