Sunday, August 17, 2014

Texting While Dri…

   If you’re a regular reader here, then you know I’ve often spoken about the shenanigans I witness when I’m forced to get behind the wheel and insert myself into the madness we call traffic. It’s bad enough to have pedestrians that think the crosswalk is a painted marking denoting the length and shape of an actual forcefield that protects them from harm, but when people with this mentality actually drive, there are no limits to the idiocy that transpires.

   I have spoken before about the unwritten rules of the road that are ignored by the foolish among us. Apparently the message didn’t sink in and the horror not only continued, but was exacerbated by further acts of lunacy. Add to all of this the fact (as I have observed anyway) that there is a certain driving style attributed to people that drive Subaru’s and the roadway has quickly become a place I no longer wish to frequent.

      After all of that, I had the audacity to think things couldn’t get any worse…which of course was when they did. I have not written about drinking and driving as I feel that message should be well presented by now and people should know to stay from behind the wheel after drinking. The fact that such instances are down 54% since 1991 is good news. Now, here’s the bad news…texting while driving has replaced drunk driving as the leading cause of car accident deaths being six times more dangerous than driving drunk.

      Being the observant driver that I am, I have noticed recently an increase in idiocy behind the wheel…and have also noticed it is happening more often with people engaged in their phone (or perhaps I should say mobile device). I have been further shocked to see that I have observed more adults than teens doing this! I regard it as a serious problem when you’re on the line encroaching in my lane (cause, y’know…you’re in my way), but when you look at some of the statistics behind this new issue, it’s absolutely disturbing.

      Non-alcohol related traffic fatalities has increased 78% since 1982. Texting while driving has replaced drinking and driving as the leading cause of vehicular fatalities and accidents for teens. Five seconds is the minimal amount of time your eyes are off the road when texting and driving. Traveling at 55 MPH…that’s the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field, without looking at the road!

      Car and Driver Magazine has conducted a braking test and found that it takes the average person .54 seconds to brake. If you are legally drunk, add 4 feet to that. If you are reading an email add 36 feet. If you are sending a text, add 70 feet! Whoa! Even though nearly every state now has laws against such action, the red alert still needs to be sounded on this issue as many people still believe it isn’t a problem and that they are capable of safely texting while driving.

      I can tell you assuredly that the people I have observed concentrating on their mobile device instead of what they are supposed to be doing behind the wheel (driving) have no clue how much of a danger they are to themselves or other people. It saddens me to think that when they figure it out, it will be too late for someone.

   It’s way past time we take driving seriously…and those that can’t figure it out need to be taking the bus.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Movie Review: "Delivery Man"

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast: 

   Vince Vaughn is always fun for me to watch. I like his style and his particular brand of humor strikes a chord with me. As David Wozniak, a man that in his youth, donated sperm and is now the father of over 500 children (over 100 of which file suite to reveal his identity), Vaughn downplays some of that humor in favor of trying to really tell a touching story.

   Chris Pratt is Vaughn’s lawyer and friend, Brett, who thinks the suite can be won while also being a big break for his litigation business. Gaining 60 pounds for the role shows how serious Pratt takes his character and delivers good comic relief that plays off the drama Vaughn tries to deliver.

   Cobie Smulders is Vaughn’s girlfriend Emma. Her pregnancy and desire to raise the child alone due to David’s lack of commitment to life in general sparks the soul searching he does, which later gets exacerbated by the revelation of all the children he has fathered. It’s not a very large or demanding role, but she delivers good enough to add some depth to the situation.

The Plot: 
   David Wozniak is an underachiever committed to doing just enough to get by and despite his passion and good intentions, can’t seem to get life to click for him in a consistent and meaningful way that reflects positivity to those that care about him.

   Faced with the prospect of being a father due to Emma’s pregnancy, David uses the pregnancy as a catalyst for change. Soon after he finds out that his sperm has been used to father over 500 children twenty years ago, and sees this development as the means change his ways and show Emma he can be a reliable and capable person.

   Over 100 of his children have filed a lawsuit to reveal David’s identity and his friend Brett takes the case in hopes to further his career and protect David.

  David decides, against the advice of Brett, to explore some of the profiles of the children filling suite and begins to involve himself in their lives. Feeling empathetic for their situation and wanting to alleviate their angst and take some responsibility, he grows ever closer to many of them which begins the change in himself he is seeking.

   What follows is a story that explores the growth of David in his quest to become a better man by being a father and friend to strangers seeking answers only he can give them.

The Verdict: 

   I very much expected this to be a side-splitting comedy and anticipated this film as such just based on past performances by Vaughn and my particular connection to his brand of humor. While it does have some very funny parts, I found it to be more drama oriented with hints of comedy thrown in for good measure.

   I wasn’t disappointed by my expectations not being met, indeed this is a lesson to me to always view films with an empty cup and let myself be filled by their content. Instead of disappointment, I was intrigued by Vaughn’s departure from his norm in favor of delivering something more meaningful than just laughs.

   As a parent, this film resonated with me on many levels. Watching Vaughn’s self-sacrifice and investment in his children elevated the substance of this film and gave it a real-life relevance that contradicted the implausibility of the situation

   It was a welcome surprise and could be the beginning of Vaughn’s venture into more serious roles. This may not be a film for everyone, but it certainly reproduced three cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.

Rating 3/5

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Comic Book Fanatic

   Anyone can be a fanatic about anything they choose, as long as they have enough passion to blind all reasoning and logic, fanaticism is within their grasp. Being an avid reader of comic books, I’m involved heavily in the genre and can tell you that this subject, like most others, is inundated with people steeped in passion…and little else.

   I’m always amazed at how adamant fans become, despite any printed evidence contradicting their position. I really can’t judge them too harshly, I used to be just like them…until I grew up (a relative sentiment considering the subject at hand). I suppose it’s better to say I matured in the genre of comic books and realized that it’s all good…and I like a lot of different stuff.

   There are still those that staunchly stand on one side of the line or the other, meaning they are avid fans of DC or rabid fans of Marvel. I suppose somebody should tell them that there are other comic companies out there making some really great books, but the likelihood of that message penetrating their fanatical force field is slim to none. 

   I always find it amusing when I debate certain character match ups because a fan can never hide their bias. It’s impossible for them to hide…they have too much passion, and not enough evidence. A classic match up that surfaces seemingly every other week is Batman versus Captain America. Now, there are fans on both sides of this discussion, but when the evidence is presented, it seems like only the Captain America fans lose their minds. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong in being patriotic, but what real weight does that carry in such a character discussion?

   I won’t re-hash the fine points that particular discussion always presents, I’ll just point you here…and you can read it for yourself. Now…this is the funny part, after acknowledging Captain America will eventually beat Batman (with the caveat that the only chance Batman has at winning is using gas), Captain America fans hit the ceiling. I should be specific and not paint all Cap fans like this, but the few that were debating me made everyone look bad. I should also note that once you don’t accept their passion as fact, be prepared to be labeled a “fan” even though the only position being taken is that of…the comics themselves.

   For these fanatics, nothing less than Captain America beating Batman in two punches or less will do. When presented with a plethora of evidence why this would not happen, they lose their minds and post memes…completely irrelevant scans designed to attack the person, not the position. When they realize a true debater and scholar of the material won’t be swayed by stupidity, an attempt is made to engage the material again. The problem here is when there is no higher evidence to support your position…your position is just, lost.

   I think they are lost from the very beginning since they are arguing that Captain America would win…and I’m agreeing with them (while acknowledging a specific scenario that could effect the outcome).

   This phenomenon can be seen by any rabid fan of any character, who is not willing to engage their higher reasoning. Thor versus Superman is another classic match up that exposes the fans. Unlike the Batman/ Captain America scenario…this match up has a lot more variables and isn’t easily concluded. The only fact (that Thor fans never want to acknowledge) is that they have fought before, and Thor lost.

   There are a plethora of reasons why a second fight simply would not go down like the first…but fans don’t want any parts of the facts. Simply trying to get them to realize Thor can be speed blitzed, and Superman has the kind of speed to do it leads to all sorts of shenanigans…even posting a scan of Thor fighting at light speed (a favorite scan of rabid Thor fans) which really isn’t that at all. Thor cannot fight at super speed, his opponent cannot fight at super speed…and the entire context of the picture was their fight breaking into a room where an experiment to slow down the speed of light was taking place. See, a true fan doesn’t do any of the research, they just want their favorite character to win.

   I too am a true fan…just not fanatical about any particular character, but just about comic books in general. I accept the good (those things about the characters I like) and the bad (those things that I think really suck…like Orion getting beat like a baby seal by the Silver Surfer). Maybe I’ve become a Vulcan in my old age, but unmitigated passion just seems so…human.

   Comic books inspire us and jumpstart the imagination. They ignite passion and can be the catalyst for lifelong friendships and new acquaintances. Everyone seems to be a fan of something at sometime be it sports, music, movies…why not comics?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Growing Up Google

   I remember my youth quit vividly and remember the world before all this technology we are all inundated with. It’s funny to see the reaction of children when you explain to them that you grew up without all the things they see as simple norms of life. They look at you as if you’ve told them some sort of obvious impossibility that you should be ashamed to think they would ever believe. Well, I hate to break it to them, but the world still turned without Google, Facebook or any apps.

   These days, there is an app for everything. The progression of technology is incredible, and a bit scary if I’m being honest. I remember having to ask someone I thought was reliable, consulting a dictionary, or searching an encyclopedia to get information of expand my knowledge. Even then the information was dated as both the dictionary or encyclopedia was only as current as the last printing…and the last printing was never the day you were looking up the information.

   Now…children have access to up-to-the-minute information and “encyclo” has been replaced by “wiki.” That’s assuming they even go to that site after their inquiry has been “googled.” How marvelous it must be to be growing up with google. How scary it is to envision a future where the only information source is dependent upon bits and the energy that carries them. Think about what a future home is going to look like. What is a bookshelf going to be without books?

   I’m not just talking about information books (especially since the information is outdated the second it’s printed), but books in general. With all the devices available to read e-books, what’s the point of buying or owning an actual book? Why invest in such an archaic medium when you can carry one device that can access more books and information that you could ever actually carry? Why not have a library at your fingertips?

   I can certainly see the advantage and embrace this brave new world we are all living in…but I also have some reservations. I mean, I can go to my bookshelf and grab a book and read it. My bookshelf will never be “down for maintenance” or experiencing any difficulty wherein my access is blocked. I think very few of us, especially the youth, are considering who can or is controlling the flow of the information they are accessing. I’d be surprised if anyone under the age of eighteen has any idea how to get information should the power ever stop.

   Think ahead another twenty-five, fifty, even one hundred years from now and imagine the dependence on computer technology…then what would happen should the access to that tech suddenly vanish. I remember when handwriting was an actual course in class we had to master. It mattered if we could write since writing letters was still a viable way to communicate. Children today have tablets in class and sending email isn’t dependent on good penmanship. Is it too much of a stretch to see the youth of the future completely dumbfounded on what to do with a pen and piece of paper as a way to convey information?

   What happens to the past and history if the internet is the only source to access it? I have already seen how it has been changed on certain subjects and when it is the only source consulted by the youth today, who will say differently tomorrow? 

   I think technology is great and I have been very blessed to see all the changes I have witnessed, however, I can see some issues arising for this generation of children growing up Google. The problem is exacerbated when the only people that care to explore them are an older generation that is slowly dwindling in numbers and influence. The youth need to be impressed upon to realize that there was life before all this technology…and that life still exists outside of all this technology. They need to be prepared for the day the lights go out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Time Responsibly

   If I had to nail down the most precious commodity afforded man, I would have to say it was time. Within time is where all the possibilities of life ignite. Anyone not thinking of time as “precious” isn’t seeing it for what it is, in my opinion. Once used, it can never be recovered, and for that reason alone I think it should be used thoughtfully and responsibly.

   I do not make any claim that I am perfect (at least I haven’t done so today) so I have, in the past, been an offender guilty of “wasting” time (as much as it’s possible to do). I make the caveat because what one person sees as a waste may not be viewed by everyone in the same way. I think it’s a great use of my time, for example, to sit here and write this post. Others my view my writings as a waste of time (if you are such a person, I do not begrudge your lack of taste).

   I try to make the most of my time…all the time, but I know life is not scripted and one cannot always optimize their schedule. That said, it saddens me to see someone flagrantly abusing their time to their own detriment…especially if it’s someone I care about. Plans don’t always go as…planned, but if one knows that they have an engagement in the future, it makes sense to me that some preparation should be made in advance for that engagement. Maybe I’m missing something here…?

   Perhaps it’s just the curse of youth (listen to me, the “curse.” I certainly didn’t see it that way when I was younger) that time is not seen as the dwindling treasure it is. I know in my youth I thought I was indestructible…and had all the time in the world. Wisdom and experience has shown me that my time is finite, even if time itself is eternal.

   Looking back now, knowing now what I know, I would have certainly taken a more responsible approach to how I spent my time and how I scheduled it. If only they would get that time travel device working…smh. I’ve accepted my experiences as the character builders they were, my frustration is directed toward the youth today that don’t seem to want to benefit from those experiences. I suppose it’s just the vicious cycle most of us seem to be in wherein we think we know better than our parents or feel they don’t have all the answers…only to become parents ourselves and find out they were right, while our children take the same approach to us that we did to them.

   I guess a worse scenario than that is that there are some adults (many in fact) that have not learned to “time responsibly” and still apply themselves to it like children. I can only imagine the long list of tragic events and calamity that could have been avoided by so many had some thought and consideration been given to how time was spend and scheduled.

   I try to make every day a productive one, but I also try to make every day an enjoyable one. A day filled with all work, while  productive, isn’t really enjoyable (unless your job is to play) while a day filled with all joy, can be extremely productive, especially if you love what you do. There is an “all work and no play” saying lurking here somewhere, but the point is that if time is being used responsibly, it all gets done…and the joy of life isn’t sacrificed in the process.

   I’m hoping this has been imbedded and resonates within myself…and manifests as an example to the rest of the world…heck, I’ll settle for just being an example to my children, and leave the “world changing” to them.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Movie Review: “Homefront”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast

   Jason Statham has graciously accepted the torch passed to him as “action star” by friend Sylvester Stallone (who also wrote the script for this film). Although this film has action, I hesitate to cal it an action film and applaud Statham for trying to show he can be more than just punches and kicks (although he does that very well). Phil Broker (Statham) may be an ex-DEA agent, but he is also a dad and Statham tackles the material well.

  James Franco is a very versatile actor and he shows that versatility here as Morgan ‘Gator’ Bodine…local drug lord and creepy slime bucket. I didn’t have any trouble confusing Franco’s role for what it was versus what it was not. He was superb as an unhinged townie that used his own supply, bullied drug addicted kids, but in the end, was nowhere near the caliber of dangerous person as those he tried to deal with or tried to intimidate. Franco projected this very well.

The Plot: 
   After an undercover operation goes awry for Phil Broker resulting in an avoidable death of the son of a leader of a dangerous biker gang, Phil Broker resigns and takes his daughter away to live life in a small town with small issues. A chance encounter with a bully at his daughters school puts him on a collision course with the local drug dealer.

   Gator Bodine is the local drug dealer that stays in business by ratting out the competition and paying off the sheriff. Strictly small time, he is drawn into confrontation with Broker after his nephew is soundly beaten up for trying to bully the new girl in school…who happens to be well trained by her ex-DEA dad. 

   After sending some local muscle to deal with Broker, it becomes quickly apparent that Broker is a lot ore than he seems. Gator digs further only to find out the secret past Broker is keeping to himself and thinks that secret is a perfect opportunity to expand his drug operation. Gator will reveal Broker’s whereabouts to the leader of the biker gang Broker helped imprison (who also lost his son in the operation) in exchange for distribution of the drugs he cooks.

   What follows is mayhem and pandemonium as Broker will go to any lengths to protect his daughter and preserve the new home they have made for themselves.

The Verdict: 
   There is a lot to like about this film starting with the story. Although the movie is filled with “cliche” moments (those events you can predict with 100% accuracy since you have seen them in countless film before this), it still seems to deliver a good showing.

   Word is the screenplay for this film was originally intended to be another Rambo sequel, I’m glad that it wasn’t. Statham is an action star, but the script of this film called for very little action in comparison to what I am used to seeing from Statham. Instead, his role as a father is highlighted more and that helped to make a solid foundation for a good film.

   A man moves to a small town and runs afoul of the locals and has to put them in place so that he can live in peace in his new surroundings. It’s not a new story, but made endearing by some unique elements like the special moves of Statham, fun performance of Franco…and a few appearances by one of my favorites, Clancy Brown (we need to see more of him Hollywood!). I could have done without the constant screaming of Broker’s daughter when the action heated up…and it made no sense that she seemed to advocate Broker starting a relationship with her teacher while still freshly dealing with the loss of her mother just after a year, but no film is perfect.

   This movie really seemed to thread the line between serious drama and action film and I think both sides of that equation lost out because of it. It certainly could have been better, but it also could have been a lot worse. Overall, it was still entertaining and able to hold the attention of a diverse audience (my family) and thus, relocate three cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Oh Arizona….

   I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Arizona. I don’t know what you've heard about this state, but I had some general ideas about what I might expect when visiting and was pleasantly surprised by my experience. There are pros and cons to every endeavor, and this trip was no exception, but let me explain what Arizona was like…for me.
   Let me get right to the heat since that is undoubtedly the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about Arizona (unless you’re a regular purveyor of the news, then it might be immigration). Arizona is hot, but it’s the kind of heat I absolutely love. Coming from the Easy Coast, hot days in the summer come with high humidity which makes the “heat” very stuffy and sticky…completely uncomfortable (for me). The dry heat of Arizona was made with me in mind, I couldn't get enough and was angry that I was leaving right before the start of a 110 degree week. 105 degrees just wasn't enough for me. Call me crazy, but heat without moisture is just…relaxing.

   Food is plentiful there although if you’re like me with a limited palate, you have to be a bit judicious in where you choose to eat. I’m not much of a “fast food” person, but if you are, then there is no shortage of places to indulge in. It was interesting to see food chains, well known, not present in my part of the country like Red Robin, Jack-in-the-Box, and In-and-Out Burger. I even saw a few Church’s Chicken which enjoyed business in my section of the world for only a brief time. Restaurants indigenous to the area were my wheelhouse of eateries and none did I enjoy more than Pita Jungle. Nowhere have I had better Spanakopita than there. It figures that my very last meal in Arizona would be the best. 

   There is plenty of land in Arizona…like miles and miles of desert under development. So much so that they don’t build “up” there, they build “out.” Coming from a place of tall buildings and residences typically three to four stories high; I wasn't used to all the space. Given that there was a lot of space, I didn't understand why the homes were being built so close to each other. Nor do I get why there is no variation of color…everything is just sandy brown. I think I would have fallen over if I came across a blue or red house in Arizona. I guess the thing to do is to own your own home out there and not be a part of any housing association if you want a bit of pizzazz to your home.

   Of course, with money, nearly anything is possible and this rang true when, from the highway, I saw homes built on top of large hills and carved into the side of mountains (whoa!). 

   If ever I was to consider moving to “The Grand Canyon State” (and believe it or not, I didn't visit the Grand Canyon) I’d certainly get familiar with the laws of the land first. Like the fact that killing the indigenous cactus will cost you a fine of $250,000 (who’s got that just laying around?). Your first DUI offense will cost you a fine of $250…along with a year revocation of your license, and 30 days in prison! Yes, you can have fun in Arizona, but understand Arizona doesn't play around with you.

   Having friends and family in the area made it less of a tourist type of vacation and more of a visit to the real parts of Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale. They do things big in Arizona (high schools that graduate classes of 4000 seniors, movie theaters with 48 screens) and issues are multifaceted (you didn’t really think immigration was as clear cut as they make it out to be on the news did you?) but enjoying the sun while not being bit by a rattlesnake, Black Widow Spider, Brown Recluse Spider or stung by a scorpion was very pleasant.

   So there is my brief assessment of Arizona. Despite whatever I have said here, the best measure of Arizona is the one you take yourself…so take a trip and experience something new and different, and hopefully come away from it more than when you went into it.