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About "Dan Brown"

I do a bit of everything for The Free Press. I edit copy, write columns, report, and blog on I've been with the paper — which I delivered as a kid growing up in Poplar Hill — since 2005. My main passions are pop culture and local personalities, and I also do a weekly column about graphic novels. Like what you read? Got a beef? Send me an e-mail at or tweet me at @DanatLFPress. I look forward to hearing from you!

The summer of my life

- July 24th, 2014

I turned 46 years old earlier this month.

I am, as Chrissie Hynde once snarled, now standing in the middle of life with my past behind me.

And you know what? I’m quite happy.

In fact, I freaking love being middle-aged.

I realize mine is the minority opinion, but if anyone has ever told you that middle age is a time to fear — don’t believe them; it’s a golden age.

It’s the time in your life when you still have plenty of youthful energy, but you also have enough experience to direct that energy in a wise way.

I didn’t always think like this. I once bought into the widespread fear of middle age.

I guess we get the impression that middle age is a bummer partly because of how it’s portrayed in pop culture.

I don’t know if many people go through a mid-life crisis in real life, but there are certainly plenty of these existential moments on the big screen, on television and in books.

Take a filmmaker like Woody Allen. Doesn’t it seem as though all of his characters are feckless men going through a crisis of confidence because they lack the willpower and vitality that once drove them?

Or look at a film like The Big Chill, which shows how a group of college friends have lost their idealism as they enter middle age.

Yes, portraying mid-life as a rough period fraught with complications and drawbacks is quite the cottage industry.

Bah. That’s not the middle age I know.

As far as I’m concerned, life has never been better.

I would never want to go back to being young, if doing so meant that I would lose the wisdom I have acquired along the way. I wouldn’t give up the perspective I have now for anything.

More than anything, middle age is a time of balance.

When you’re young, you feel young most of the time – and only occasionally feel old.

When you’re old, I imagine you feel old the majority of the time, with only sporadic flashes of youth.

But middle age is the period when you feel simultaneously young and old, but rather than feeling torn, these emotions co-exist peacefully. At least they do for me.

Besides, you can’t fight the aging process. No matter what TV commercials might say.

As Eagles drummer Don Henley famously said, age is the great leveller. It’s happening to all of us, and it’s happening at the same rate to everyone – one day at a time.

Maybe I’m loving this time in my life so much because I had enough sense at a young age to dedicate myself to enjoying what each stage of life brought my way. I promised myself I would live life to the fullest, whatever that meant at the time.

Being middle-aged is, as the kids say, awesome.

If you haven’t already, you should try it some time.

Drawn to London

- July 20th, 2014

I interviewed graphic novelist and Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley about his new book, Seconds, and his links to the Forest City.

You can read the piece from Saturday’s Free Press by clicking here.


On reality TV, it’s all about the reveal

- July 10th, 2014

The reveal is a reality-show staple that has become an enduring television convention for one main reason: It reaffirms our faith that change is possible.

Even if you’re only a casual TV viewer, odds are you’ve seen many such moments.

The reveal is the scene at the end of the program when the results of all of the hard work of the previous 30 or 60 minutes are unveiled.

It is, to borrow a term from pornography that got absorbed into the mainstream lexicon long ago, the money shot.

At one time, say the mid-1990s, reveals were the preserve of makeover episodes of daily talk shows. Oprah Winfrey and her imitators did them. Then producers clued in: Audiences love them.

Now they’re everywhere.

A fixer-upper home undergoes renovations. A hoarder’s stash is removed. An unhealthy schlub loses a life-changing amount of weight. A Plain Jane is reintroduced to the world as a stone-cold fox. We watch them all, riveted.

Reveals are the reason why the word “transformation” gets thrown around a lot on TV.

You see, nothing changes a little bit anymore on the small screen. The entire basis of reality TV is manufactured drama and no drama is more manufactured than a reveal.

Typically, the participants lose their minds. Mouths gape. Gasps abound. Tears are shed. The host stands ready to catch those who might faint from sheer joy while the omnipresent cameras capture it all.

The reveal is a happy occasion.

The typical episode of a series like Property Brothers, How to Look Good Naked, or Disaster Decks works entirely toward the reveal.

The reveal seems familiar and comfortable since it harkens back to a time when we all still believed in the “Before” and “After” shots in magazine ads.

Watching reality TV, you might wonder why everyone says home renovations are such a big deal. Judging by a network such as HGTV, a renovation is a relatively straightforward process that takes at most an hour.

Oh sure, there are bumps along the way and moments of drama, but as the reveal approaches we know an undeniably happy ending is in the making.

If film is a director’s medium and television is a writer’s medium, then reality TV is an editor’s medium. Just count the number of cuts on any reality show. And look at how much they love time-lapse photography. Clouds billow. Busy streets pulse with the blurry headlights of traffic. The moon waxes and wanes. Time is passing. Change is coming.

Change in the real world is hard. However, on TV it’s a guarantee.

No state of being is permanent on reality shows. Everyone can change, evolve and grow with the right tools and encouragement.

You can be a better you.

In fact, reveals are so popular, it won’t be long until some smart producer comes up with a show that is nothing but reveal after reveal.

It sounds preposterous today, but at one time so did the notion of a series about weight loss.

Who would ever want to watch a weekly series about a bunch of fat losers exercising and eating right?

Excluding Lando is the right thing to do

- July 2nd, 2014

There’s been grumbling online among Star Wars fans who are pissed that J.J. Abrams isn’t bringing Billy Dee Williams back to play Lando Calrissian in Episode VII, the Star Wars sequel due out in 2015.

Far be it from me to defend Abrams, but he’s doing the right thing.

Let’s face it. In the original Star Wars trilogy, Lando was pretty much a plot device wearing a cape. He existed to create some friction between Han Solo and Princess Leia.

He was introduced in 1980′s The Empire Strikes Back to stir the pot, but not much else. And three years later, the Return of the Jedi script didn’t give him much more to do.

Yes, he helped the star warriors rescue Solo from Jabba the Hutt. Yes, he piloted the Millenium Falcon in the assault on the second Death Star.

But was he absolutely crucial to the plot? His duties could have been assigned to another character – say, Chewbacca — and the film wouldn’t have suffered at all.

Leaving Lando out this time around allows Abrams to get back to the original troika of human characters – Solo, Leia and Luke Skwyalker.

I expect Chewie and the droids will play supporting roles, as always, in the upcoming Abrams release.

Which is fine.

Because if the Walt Disney Co. follows through on its stated plans to produce several character-based Star Wars films, in additions to Episodes VII through IX, we likely haven’t seen the last of Calrissian.

The obvious idea is a film about Lando’s youth. Now that Abrams has done away with the so-called Expanded Universe – the books, comics and games that told stories between, before and after the existing is films – Lando’s past is a blank slate.

How did he become friends with Han Solo, and lose the Millenium Falcon to the wily smuggler? How did he come to settle down in Cloud City? Why does he hang around with Lobot? There’s at least one decent movie there.

It looks at this point as though Abrams is content with directing the first instalment of the new trilogy and then moving on to other projects. This means any number of filmmakers could have a hand in shaping the next phase of Star Wars history.

If the example of George Lucas has taught us anything, it’s that no one person should have absolute control over this beloved property.

Lucas seemed content to let Star Was – on the big screen, at least — lie fallow for decades at a time.

The purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney is the best thing Star Wars fans could have hoped for. Whatever else you want to say about Mickey Mouse, this is a company that is devoted to exploiting the full potential of all its properties.

So Lando fans, don’t fret.

I’m betting you will see the lovable rogue on the big screen one day soon in an adventure that focuses on his own brand of interstellar swagger.

Next time, he’ll be in the spotlight, cape and all.

Captain Canuck freebies celebrate superhero

- June 26th, 2014

Captain Canuck is back!

Click here for news about a FREE comic featuring the storied hero.

As a fan of the Captain from way back, I’m very excited he is returning to comic stands!