Sunday, November 23, 2014

Black Friday: A Showcase of Insanity

   So.…I’m wondering how many people actually enjoy Thanksgiving when they plan on being out in the cold waiting in (or perhaps starting a) line to be the first into a store to shop? I mean, I get the hook…deep savings on items you want, but it seems not many understand the bait. I always say that human nature never ceases to amaze me, and the insanity of Black Friday is just another example of humans still in need of a little more evolution.
   The masses have been trained like obedient sheep to placate the corporate industry with their time and money. Too much? Ok, how about the pegs have been shaped perfectly to fit the wheels of corporate greed as they roll over the last vestiges of higher intellect? No? Well…no matter, like all things, there is more to Black Friday than meets the eye. Ok, maybe not…insane is as insane does.

   Firstly let’s take a gander at the “savings” (yes, I used “gander” in a sentence). Suppose you budget yourself for $500 and think that you can come home with everything you wanted, but with some of that money in your pocket. The good news will be that you got everything on your list for less than normally available. The bad news is your pockets are still empty because with all the savings, you didn’t stop at what you intended to get and came home with more than planned for.
   It’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all you’ve come back with more…stuff. However if, like a good gambler (and by good I mean bad), you went to the well for more funds because if not, this or that item you spotted won’t be there later for the same price…so you had to get it immediately. Insert hook…reel in human fish. Looking at your account on Reality Saturday reveals just how "black" Friday really was and how great the “savings” were.
   Secondly, let’s look at the cordial and respectful behavior Black Friday induces on the patrons. I mean, nothing says “Tis the season” like knocking over any and everyone in your path to get to what you want to buy. They really need to start making Hallmark cards with all the colorful and metaphoric language being thrown about. Nothing says Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas like a card that says “Get the f@#k outta my way!”
   Ok, sarcasm aside, Black Friday has become a huge event…bigger even than Thanksgiving. I remember as a child seeing all sorts of Thanksgiving decorations in the stores and about the city. Now I hardly see any. Instead we have Black Friday advertising everywhere you look (and in many places you don’t). I get that Black Friday is “sold” as some sort of great day for the customer…but even a little common sense will tel you that it’s an even greater day for the corporations. If it wasn’t profitable, it wouldn’t be so heinously advertised to the point of actually eclipsing Thanksgiving.
   Is it too much to imagine that Black Friday will become an official holiday in the future? Maybe…but there seems to be no hurdle corporate America can’t overcome as long as it’s a profitable jump. People are already finagling their way out of work to join the insanity. It’s the biggest subject for Thanksgiving, not being thankful for all you’ve been given. Heck…I bet if you asked people what they’re most thankful for they’ll say Black Friday.

   While I’m thinking about it…why is it called “Black” Friday anyway? Is it because it puts the companies in the black, instead of the red of low sales? Is it a subliminal remnant of white being good while black is bad? I think that now, it is a combination of both since the history of the name has now evolved into the reality of the day it is for both consumer and corporation.

   Regardless of what you think about Black Friday, I will remain sane on that day and observe the human herd…with both disdain and amusement. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Declare Your Independence

   So.…the mid-term elections are over and Americans have once again proven they are unfit for the sacrifice made by the founding fathers. Too harsh? Ok, how about they have proven once again they are mindless sheep willing to follow people that systematically lie to them? Wait…let’s back track a moment. This is not a post ranting about the overwhelming Republican victories, but a post sounding the horn about a two party system that repeatedly gives us exactly what we don’t want…but always ask for.

      Let’s not sit here and act like there’s a huge difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. All you have to do is look at the first things Obama did when he got in office to see which way the wind blows. C’mon…keep acting like bailing out the banks wouldn’t be the first thing the Republicans would have also done. That aside, lets look at a much simpler comparison…show me a single politician sitting in office that makes the same amount you and I do. It doesn’t matter which party they belong to, government is made up of millionaires setting policy for the poor and middle class.

   Personally, I’ve had enough of the shenanigans. I’m flabbergasted at the ineptitude of the general public to not see the vicious cycle they have locked themselves into. The very people not happy with Bush voted for Obama…then vote Republican again when they aren’t happy with that. Later, when they aren’t happy with the Republicans, they’ll vote Democrat again…and the cycle continues.
   Since my values don’t line up with every single tenet of either party, I’m proud to declare myself an Independent…and thus a participating intellectual trying to break the status quo so progress can be made.
   Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of all this so the message can be delivered loud and clear. People need to stop voting in candidates presented from both the Republicans and the Democrats and start voting in candidates that have no affiliation with either party. I hear the same argument all the time for not doing this. A vote for the independent candidate is a “wasted” vote. However, seeing as how there is a vicious cycle going on wherein both the Democrats and Republicans can’t get the job done (by design I’ll add), it seems to me the wasted vote is the one that perpetuates this dumb cycle of those with means setting policy for those with lesser means.

   Let’s not pretend that the lobbyists aren’t sitting outside the doors of politicians from both parties…cause they are. How else do you think these laws protecting big corporations while screwing the average citizen get passed? One party can’t do it alone.
   Also…how about we stop being so gullible and closed minded in our thinking? Let’s stop acting like the government hasn’t lied to us before (while under the control of both parties) and that a media run and funded by private corporations doesn’t have a self-serving agenda. This would be hilarious, if it wasn’t destroying our country.
   It’s time to start weighing the damage folks. If you’re voting for a candidate because he/she supports a certain issue you rally behind (guns, abortion, gay rights, immigration) it’s time you start looking at the rest of the platform to see what you’re giving up for the support of that position. What good are your beliefs if you’re dead? If you’re candidate won’t stop the poisoning of the people through food and drugs, for a profit, then what good is he/she? If you don’t realize that above all, your health is all you have…and once its gone, you are as useless as a strainer standing in for a cup, then what good are you now…really?

   Let me simplify it even more for you. If your candidate is unwilling to sign into law, legislation mandating each member of Congress be given time, and read, every page of every bill voted on…then you’re dealing with a scummy politician, and it’s time to replace him/her with a statesman. 

Declare your independence!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Movie Review: “The Equalizer” 

   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: 

Denzel Washington is one of the biggest names around and at 59 years old, he is showing that he still can pack the theater and deliver on the silver screen. Taking on the role of Robert McCall from the television series “The Equalizer,” he sells himself as a man dealing with loss, but a complete servant to his nature to do what’s right by helping people in need.

   Marton Csokas is the antagonist in the film playing a Russian enforcer, the kind called in when things have gotten really bad, and need to be permanently fixed. He also sells his role delivering a character that sends chills down your spins as you never know what he’s going tot do next….but you know it’s going to be bad.

   The interaction between these two was tense and very interesting as I watched them take a measure of each other, while I was taking a measure of them both trying to figure out the standard they were using for each other. It’s always interesting to see the cat and mouse game being played by two cats.

The Plot: 
   Robert MCall is a simple man that lives alone, goes to work, and likes to read books. He has something of a compulsive disorder, but he also has a big heart as he is always willing to help his fellow workers. With all that, there is certainly something more to him that lies just beneath the surface.

   Unable to sleep at night, he frequents a twenty-four hour diner where he regularly, but in a very controlled way, interacts with a local hooker called Teri. Always encouraging others, one night Teri breaks protocol to interact with Robert more profoundly. It’s here we learn a bit more about him and that he is a man suffering from the loss of his wife.

   While walking Teri home, a couple of Russian men intercept them and take Teri away. Robert continues his regimented lifestyle, but can’t shake the feeling that something bad has happened to Teri.

      One night when he goes to the diner, the bartender tells him that Teri is in the hospital and has been beaten up very badly. Robert goes to see her and extracts some information from one of her fellow associates about the exact nature of the business they are forced to be a part of. Robert decides to do something about it.

   What follows is a riveting and tense look at the other side of Robert, a side we are shown throughout the film, but not nearly as intense as what he is called on to do to extract Teri from her service to the Russian mob…by eliminating their entire East Coast hub.

The Verdict: 

   First, I gotta say that as a lifelong resident of Boston, it’s always exciting to see my city on the silver screen. Recognizing the places and noticing the way they film to make the city look bigger than it really is amuses me to no end.

   This film is very story driven and it slowly builds, but never seems to come to a head equal to the buildup. The action was very intense and meticulous and I enjoyed the attention to violent detail both for the hero of the film, and the villain.

   That said, this film could have been a two hour premier of a television series (sans some of the graphic nature of the violence) and that is due mostly to the overall pace of the film. I liked the fact that Robert’s exact military  and/or agency past was never revealed. We know he is good at what he does, perhaps even the very best as eluded to in a scene where it’s queued up like he needs help, but in actuality, he is simply looking for permission to unleash holy hell. 

   I very much enjoyed how every book Robert read was analogous to how he lived his life. Well, they only revealed one book and the plot of another, but both were exactly what and who he was…a knight living in a time where knights don’t exist anymore, and an old man that has to be true to his nature and face one go the greatest adversaries of his life…at a time when he thought such things were past him.

   Despite the feel that this film wasn’t as “big” as it could have been, instead focusing more on story and character development, it still killed three and a half cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea…equating to a very good film.

Rating 3.5/5

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Zor and Zam

   Okay I’ll admit it…I’m a Monkees fan. I’ve been a fan since I was a child and exposure to other music genres and the experiences I’ve had in my life over the last thirty years has not change that fact. Even today, I enjoy the melodies and find many of the lyrics to still have relevance. 
   Recently I listened to a song called Zor and Zam and it got me thinking about the application of the point of the song if applied today…in real life. I mean, what would happen if everyone today did what everyone in the song did?

   Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for anarchy or revolution, I’m just thinking out loud about what the enforcement of the will of the people would look like if we collectively woke up all at once. Of course it’s a pipe dream (as in you have to be smoking the wacky tabacky) to think it could ever happen. Such an undertaking would have to be worldwide, and we can’t even come to one accord in this country, never mind the entire world.

   I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me rewind and clarify the point of the song by taking a look at the lyrics:

The king of Zor, he called for war
And the king of Zam, he answered.
They fashioned their weapons one upon one
Ton upon ton, they called for war at the rise of the sun.

Out went the call to one and to all
That echoed and rolled like the thunder.
Trumpets and drums, roar upon roar
More upon more.
Rolling the call of "Come now to war."

Throughout the night they fashioned their might
With right on the side of the mighty.
They puzzled their minds plan upon plan
Man upon man
And at dying of dawn the great war began.

They met on the battlefield banner in hand.
They looked out across the vacant land.
And they counted the missing, one upon one,
None upon none.
The war it was over before it begun.

Two little kings playing a game.
They gave a war and nobody came.
And nobody came.
And nobody came.
And nobody came.
And nobody came.

   So the long and short of it is two kings called for war, and the people told them to pound sand. It sounds simplistic, but I hear a whole lot more when I listen to the song and see a whole lot more when I read the lyrics.
   I see people taking back the political system by showing up and voting in people that don’t belong to either of the two main political parties. I see solidarity to correct the plague that has become police brutality. I see people taking back their health and showing the medical “industry” that health isn’t about making money but taking care of each other. I see people not always looking at those things that make us different as a way to divide us, but looking at those things we have in common to unite us.

   Maybe I’m looking to hard and seeing too much, but I know things don’t have to stay the way they are and with a little courage to stand up to Zor and Zam, things could not only be different…but better!

   Think about it…then be about it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Need Money

   “I need money”…no doubt a phrase uttered by nearly everyone at some time in their life (of course there will always be those few exceptions…bless their hearts). I hear that phrase more and more these days and I’m not sure if it’s due to the economy, or just a personal desire to simply have more. What I am sure of is that anyone pursuing this need to the exclusion of all else has, or will be having, some other important issues very soon (notwithstanding any issues making is necessary for the pursuit to begin with).
   With the economy the way it is, more and more people seem to be in need of more work than is available. At least, that’s how it looks at times. I know folks that have three and four jobs…and looking for another! Let me be clear, my hope is for anyone needing money can find work to get it. Heck, I have a good job and still think I need more money (who doesn’t…really?).

      This post isn’t about our troubled economy (and even if you’re one of the few not having trouble with it, you can be sure others are). This post isn’t about those most in need (although there can never be too much attention on the issue, the quick solution remains our own acts of humanity). No, this post is about those of us that feel this “need” while not recognizing we are filling it, and the detrimental effects of this ignorance.

      I can’t imagine having to work every day of the week…as a permanent schedule. I know some people somewhere have to do it, but I also know there are people doing it, that really don’t have to. Now I chase the dollar as much as the next person (well…obviously, not really), but I also realize that somewhere in this equation I have to factor in my mental health and the time needed for the rest of life that happens outside of work.

      I’ve often contemplated the life of a child that has a parent (or should I now be saying “parents” since both parents having to work has become the staple of our economic times?) working so much that they hardly have any memories of any quality time spent with those they love. Which is greater, the financial gains made or the personal investment lost? I’ve always felt that time is the most precious commodity we have and the proper use of it is the wisest thing we can do. How many parents now regret not spending more time with their children while they were growing up? How many realize they were blinded by their need for money, although they had enough to really cover the “needs?”
   Sometimes we confuse “need” with “want” and other times there is no confusion at all. We simply want and then justify our actions (constantly working) by framing the narrative with “need.”

      This post is meant to reach out to those people that are either confused or just fooling themselves because once time has passed you by, you can’t go back for a do-over. Constant work is personally unhealthy and socially irresponsible for the family. Why set yourself up to be one of those people looking back on your life with regret? And if you are destined to be such, why have this particular issue as one of them?

      We all need money…but life doesn’t start and end with that need, and we shouldn’t make everything in between all about money. Message delivered.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pass the Smelling Salt

   Sometimes I sit in amazement at some of the things I observe, that seem to go unnoticed by others. It’s not that I’m privy to some secret information or am digging deeply for revelations, but just observing what is blatantly touted in front of us all. 

   Perhaps I’m not the one making any sense, but when I look at the television and see some of the commercials or campaign ads, I have to laugh because there is no way I can take it seriously. Then I shudder because I know there are some out there, many in fact, that take it very seriously…and that’s very scary.

   Let me discuss a scenario and see if you can relate. A campaign ad comes on for a guy running for office in New Hampshire. This guy ran for the same office in Massachusetts, but upon not getting elected, picked up and moved to New Hampshire to try it again. Umm…is it me or does this scream insincerity and simply a yearning to just be in office? I mean, before you were for the people of Massachusetts, fighting for their best interests. Now you are standing up for the people of New Hampshire? Methinks the only person you care about is yourself and you will be for whomever you think will vote for you. 

   The sad part is there are other ads that point this out…and yet there are people still thinking their candidate actually cares about them. I got news for you; if he loses he will care about you as much as he cared about those he said he was with before you (wink, wink). 

   How about those commercials from these law firms offering their service if you or a loved one have been injured (or in the loved one’s case, killed) by a prescription medicine? I mean…really? These are the exact same medicines that were in a commercial a few months ago wherein the announcer lists a plethora of side effects, often much worse than the actual condition the medication is supposed to address.

   I mean….really. How obvious is it that we shouldn't be taking these poisonous excuses for making money for the pharmaceutical industry, doctors…and now the lawyers. Can someone please pass the smelling salt because there is a large segment of the population that really needs to wake up!

   They say if you want to hide something, put it in plain sight and watch how it disappears from view. This is proven true with every commercial and campaign ad that crosses your television screen. It goes unnoticed while planting the subliminal seed that ensures you grow up to be a good little sheep. How much would we all really grow if we actually paid attention to the idiocy being presented to us like the best thing since individually wrapped cheese slices? I stopped feeling bad for people that were displeased with their candidate or in a bad way from their medication, because at this late stage of the game, you should know the rules and understand that you will never win until you play a different game.

   I’m tired of the fix being in and refuse to play along, thus…this is me, winning. As I now pass the smelling salt to you, I invite you to join me in waking up to a well-deserved win. Breathe deeply…

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movie Review: “No Good Deed” 

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: 
   Idris Elba is one of my favorite actors, so I’ll try not to be biased when I say that although I’m not used to seeing him in the role of the villain, he delivered in the role. I had little doubt that he could pull it off given his performance in the series “Luther.” The conviction with which he attacks his character acting is parallel to his other passion…and if you don’t know, then you need to check out “Idris Elba: King of Speed.”

   Taraji P. Henson certainly sold me on the role of neglected housewife, suffering from lack of affection and wanting more out of her life than the constant struggle of being a mother. 

   When these two shared the screen, I was drawn in and invested in their interaction. Despite some plot holes in the script, these actors gave great performances and didn’t disappoint me.

The Plot: 
   Colin Evans has a silver tongue…and a very violent temper. In prison for manslaughter, but suspected of several more crimes, he is up for parole and looking forward to getting out…until his parole is denied.

   Refusing to be deterred, Colin escapes on the way back to the prison, and makes his way to Atlanta where he looks in on his (now) ex-fiancĂ©. After finding out that she is involved with someone else, he confronts her. Not being able to control his rage, the confrontation ends in murder…but Colin has not yet finished with his revenge.

   Terri is a neglected housewife, married to a husband that seems to have little interest in making his marriage work. Spending everyday with her children, she longs to rekindle the flame her marriage once had.

   On a rainy night after her husband has left on a golf trip with his father, Terri gets an unexpected visitor seeking help after having an accident, but the visitor (Colin) is very much expected (in his mind) as he is not there by “accident” and has some very specific plans for Terri and her children.

      What follows is a riveting revelation of why Colin is there and what he really wants through flattery, deception, and ultimately, violence. Colin refuses to be denied what he thinks is rightfully his, and Terri learns the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished.

The Verdict: 

   There wasn’t anything in this film that hasn’t been seen before. I’d even argue that the “twist” at the end could be seen coming a mile away (more on that later). 
That said, there were some plot holes, or at the very least, actions that just didn’t make any sense for a reasonable person in dire need of extricating their children from danger. There were numerous scenes where Terri gets the drop on Colin (literally), only to be recaptured because her first action after was to run. I saw this film with my 16 year old daughter…and even she was whispering to herself “keep hitting him.”

      I also found the scene with the police officer a strain for my intelligence as any reasonable officer faced with all the overwhelming evidence that something is terribly wrong, would likely act much quicker than the slow witted dolt in the film (at least I hope I’m right about that). 

      The “twist” was no surprise to me as Colin passed several houses before settling in on Terri’s house (meaning he had intent for that particular residence) and Colin himself said that he needed to know who the other man was…and needed to deal with him. The logical conclusion is that after dealing with his ex-fiancĂ©, her lover was next on the list. So yes…the “twist” was spoiled for me early on…;-)

   Despite the plot holes and actions that made no sense to me, the film still delivered a good story with some great actors, killing three cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.

Rating 3/5

Friday, September 26, 2014

Get to the Point

   Oh you know a person that never gets to the point? Perhaps you know someone that occasionally gets lost in their own story? Usually, I’m a very patient person, but there are those times when my brain is in high processing mode and it can’t wait for every superfluous detail to be revealed on the road leading to the point.

   Strange that one so usually focused on details (me) can sometimes have such a hard time dealing with them. I’m fully prepared to put the onus on me in this case and admit that I’m the one with the problem. Even if that’s true though…I’m going to vent anyway.
   Let me give an example and judge for yourself if I’m exaggerating the issue.
   So there I was talking to a friend when they say to me “My sister found a wallet on the street the other day and you won’t believe what was inside it.” Now…if there was ever a hook to snag a person’s interest, that was it. My curiosity meter exploded because if the expected item you find in wallets wasn’t there (money), then I really want to know what was so “unbelievable.”

   So…I took the bait and asked what was in the wallet. The response I got went something like this…
   “Well, my sister tells me she found a wallet and couldn’t believe what was inside. I asked her what was inside, but instead she pulled it out and told me to look inside. I said to her that I wasn’t going to look inside and that she should just tell me. She then asked me why she should tell me when the wallet is right in front of me and I can simply look. Listen I said…if it’s something so unbelievable, then she should tell me quickly because I really want to know. She then says to me…”
   I swear, at that point, I blacked out. When my mind snapped back to reality I had already uttered four words that ensured that I would never find out what was in the wallet. I don’t even remember saying them…they just kind of lingered in the air accompanied by the look of disdain on my friends face. By the look you’d think I used my pimp hand instead of simply saying “Get to the point.”
   Looking back now…having some time to reflect, perhaps my choice of words and tone were a sort of verbal slap, but I just couldn’t take the verbatim recounting of a conversation that had no bearing on what was actually in the damn wallet. Heck…now that I’m thinking about it, I still don’t know what was in the wallet (and I so much wanted to know). If I did use a verbal pimp hand, I hope it was the backhand!
   Maybe I overreacted and could have had just a little more patience. Maybe…but could you imagine if the sister had gotten a phone call during that conversation (and I don’t know that this didn’t happen) and I got the word-for-word phone conversation as part of the process of revealing what was in that damn wallet?
   I’m usually a nice guy and can handle myself better than that, but everyone has a moment, and that was my moment. Perhaps I should apologize for what could only have been perceived as rude…but truth is truth, and some people just need to get to the point.
   I guess next time I will politely interrupt and tell them there is a blog post they have to read and that it just can’t wait…then direct them here. If the title doesn’t do the trick and they actually read more into the post, at least it will stop the steady stream of useless information and give me a chance to unhook myself and reign in my curiosity.

  The heck with that stupid wallet…I don’t care anymore.