Monday, May 30, 2011

Movie Review: "The Next Three Days"

   I always start one of these reviews off by stating how much I enjoy movies. I figure that there is someone out there that is reading this for the first time and would be interested to know how I feel about the subject I’m going to write about. However, those that come here often know exactly how I feel, and so to reach a happy medium, let me just say...I absolutely love to watch movies, and get right to it.
The Cast
   Russell Crowe is a great actor that has never given a performance that I haven’t liked. This movie was no exception and continues his consistent ability to deliver great performances. I felt his pain and desperation throughout and it kept me at the edge of my seat. Elizabeth Banks gives a spectacular performance in this movie. Admittedly, I haven't really noticed her in anything else before this, but that doesn’t diminish from her performance in any way. Liam Neeson has a small role in this film, but I’m a huge fan of his and refuse to talk about this movie without mentioning him. Although his screen time is extremely limited, he had me hanging on his every word.
The Plot: 
   Russell Crowe plays John Brennan, a spouse that has had his life turned upside down and inside out when his wife, Lara Brennan, is arrested and convicted of murdering her boss. All the evidence clearly implicates her as the murderer, but John refuses to believe his wife capable of such a heinous act. After years of living without her and raising their son, all legal avenues to prove her innocence are exhausted...and John must make a decision.
   John decides that he will not live without his family whole and complete and seeks out a man named Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson) that is world famous for escaping prisons said to be inescapable. Armed with advice, determination, and love, John has three days to plan the escape of his wife and get his family to safety to live the life he always wanted.
   With a wrench thrown into every phase of his plans and the constant unexpected happening, John must become someone he’s not, to save someone he wants to be.
The Verdict: 
   This movie is exciting and had me glued to the screen eager to see what would happen next. Crowe brings John Brennan to life as a man that has absolute conviction that his wife is innocent and had me wrapped up in his desperation, fully convinced that love would prevail. When the action starts, the movie takes more twists and turns than some of the best roller coasters.
   The only element of the movie I had issue with was the unrealistic leaps of deduction by the police. Batman, holding the mantle of “Worlds Greatest Detective,” isn’t even that good...but it help set the action in motion so I didn’t get too caught up in that one ridiculous moment.
   This movie was a slightly different flavor than my usual cup of tea, but any movie that has me screaming at the television is certainly something to savor. Great performances all around and a good story gets this movie three cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Recession is Over..."Technically"

   I recently got into a conversation with an old friend about the recession. He was very surprised to hear me talk about the recession in the present tense since, technically, it is over. I thought that to be an interesting point of view, but then considered the source of the view and understood completely. You would have to know my friend to understand why I say that, but I think I can express our conversation in a broader view.
   Not so long ago, I think it was back in January, I wrote a post on this blog called “Empty Spaces” wherein I explored the prevailing thought, at the time, that everything was fine economically...despite the increasing rise of empty spaces where thriving small businesses used to be. Now, in a conversation about the economy where I was being told that the recession is technically over, I couldn’t help but to mention that the technicality of it doesn’t do anything to fill the empty spaces and that the appearance of those spaces is still on the rise. “Space For Lease” is the new sign where a good dry cleaners used to be in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, it’s a new sign among many, many old ones. 
   The recession being “technically” over doesn’t reverse the effects for those that were caught neck deep in it. I can understand the point of view, because that is just what it is...a different perspective based on personal position. If your personal position is one of relative comfort, and the recession for you was just a loose term used on the evening news, then yes,“technically” it’s over. However, if you are one check away from losing everything and that check is steadily losing buying power, then the recession being technically over doesn’t mean anything at all to you...because for you it’s still a very real event.
   “There are many definitions of what a recession is. The only one that counts is the one you are dealing with on a daily basis.” - Survivor’s Guide to a Recession: 50 States, page 10.
   So, continuing my conversation, it was mentioned that I wrote a book to help people that are struggling during these harsh times...and again was reminded that what is considered harsh for one may be considered a bit stagnant for another. A lesson in perspective was again upon me, as it was mentioned that if I had written a book on how to generate wealth, that would have been something worth mentioning. I is worth mentioning. I also think that a book that caters to the wealthiest one percent of the country is not nearly as helpful to a person in the disappearing middle class as a book that addresses the needs and problems of that class.
   If you lost your job tomorrow and couldn’t find another for at least six months, could you maintain your level of comfort and lifestyle without any adjustments at all?  Would you wake up every morning worry free because you have plenty of money on hand to pay all your bills...for six months? I think most reading this would have to make some adjustment, no matter how small, something would change. I could be way off base here and the recession is not only technically over but the effects of it are long gone too...but then I would have to not believe my lying eyes as I gaze daily upon people and businesses, small and large, struggling to stay economically viable.
   My conversation was engaging and informative, hopefully both ways, and I came out of it with more than I had when I got into it. Although the answer to the question of whether we are in a recession or not will be answered individually by the daily way in which we live, I think the more pressing question is are you prepared for the next one? Are you ready to endure another crash in the economy? 
   We all have to answer this question eventually...but if you’re looking for some sound advice here it is: Don’t wait until after the economy crashes to answer the question...and start making adjustments now if the answer is “no.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Crossing Over...Walking in Ignorance

   There is a prevailing problem plaguing some segments of our society and if it isn’t addressed soon, someone is going to get hurt...or worse. Think of this as a public service announcement giving you vital information on a condition, or more accurately, a behavior that you may or may not be aware of. 
   Being the kind of person I am, I observe nearly everything...I just can’t help it, and once I see a pattern, I look for it. As I drive through the city daily either for personal errands or as a function of my duties while working, I get the opportunity to observe many things...but what I end up observing most, is people. Lately, my observations have been most disturbing because what I’m seeing is extremely dangerous and defies the natural law of self preservation. Speaking of law...I think it’s time I get to the heart of the issue.
   There are laws in place for nearly every facet of our lives. There are laws for driving...and laws for walking. Being a pedestrian can be challenging at times, especially in the dead of winter, but I see no reason to make it a game of Russian Roulette. Let me Massachusetts we have a law, that is very clearly posted, increasingly so, at many intersections and it reads “State Law: Stop For Pedestrians In Crosswalk.” I suspect that all states have the same or some variant of this to help protect people when crossing the street. I’m all for this...but people are taking this to the extreme. 

   In my observations, I’ve seen people thrust themselves into the crosswalk without so much as a glance to either side of them, with the assurance and confidence that the crosswalk is actually an invisible physical barrier that will easily repel any vehicle foolish enough to challenge it. Really...I kid you not. It’s almost as if they were not really crossing the street, but instead, walking into a tunnel made of adamantium, giving them complete protection from all vehicles. The law makes provisions for crossing the street...but I don’t see anywhere in it where it expressly excludes the use of common sense. Here, take a look at it:
(Chapters 1 through 182)
Marked crosswalks; yielding right of way to pedestrians; penalty
Section 11. When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be so to yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk marked in accordance with standards established by the department of highways if the pedestrian is on that half of the traveled part of the way on which the vehicle is traveling or if the pedestrian approaches from the opposite half of the traveled part of the way to within 10 feet of that half of the traveled part of the way on which said vehicle is traveling.
No driver of a vehicle shall pass any other vehicle which has stopped at a marked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross, nor shall any such operator enter a marked crosswalk while a pedestrian is crossing or until there is a sufficient space beyond the crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle he is operating, notwithstanding that a traffic control signal may indicate that vehicles may proceed.
Whoever violates any provision of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200.

Whenever a pedestrian is injured by a motor vehicle in a marked crosswalk, the department of state police or the municipal police department with jurisdiction of the street, in consultation with department of state police if deemed appropriate, shall conduct an investigation into the cause of the injury and any violation of this section or other law or ordinance and shall issue the appropriate civil or criminal citation or file an application for the appropriate criminal complaint, if any. This section shall not limit the ability of a district attorney or the attorney general to seek an indictment in connection with the operation of a motor vehicle which causes injury or death and which violates this section.
   I can’t speak for anyone else, but I didn’t see a phrase in there that discontinued the wise words of mother to “look both ways before you cross the street.” With all due respect to the law, the paint on the street that people feel so safe walking on will not...I repeat, will not, in any way shield, stop or protect anyone from two and a half tons of metal traveling at no less than thirty miles per hour. With Boston drivers, you can expect significantly faster speeds, despite the posted speed limit. 

   My fear deepens with this increasing behavior because it is the young people that are the most egregious violators of this habit. The law, coupled with the illusion of indestructibility that accompanies youth, lays the groundwork for a very bad situation. Not to exclude the other side of the equation...that most people in the city of Boston are horrible drivers at best, scribe of this post excluded, and need further education on rules of the road as well as several million hours of driving to be competent behind the wheel (but I won’t get into that now).
   So...take this as a public service announcement informing you that in a contest of paint versus car, the car will win and move on to the next round...bone versus car, and the car will win again...easily. The fine charged to the driver won’t be nearly enough to cover the damage done to flesh and muscle and taking the attitude that if you get hit, you’ll simply sue, is little consolation to your loved ones after you’re gone.
   Mother wasn’t always right (or maybe she was), but she certainly knew what she was talking about when she said to look both way before you cross the street. I’ll add to that advice by saying stay alert...because walking in ignorance will have you crossing over to more than just the other side of the street.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mothers...Most of All

   If reflecting and honoring mothers makes today a special day, then it isn’t any different from any other day for me. I constantly reflect with thoughts of my mother and honor her every time I do the best I can with endeavors of positivity and kindness. I am the product of her effort to make a child into a man through love, education, discipline, and understanding. She was the spark that ignited the flame within me, an ever burning torch that illuminates the way for those that have come after me. I never ponder the question of where I would be without the nurturing love of my mother because the importance of my reality is where I am and where I am going because of her.
   Today is a day set aside specifically for mothers...all mothers. So today, I not only reflect on my own, but the important role of every mother and the impact that role has in our society. The mother is a revered position and the denigration of such could get somebody injured. Say what you will about the attire or position of a person, comment derogatorily about how someone speaks or acts...but make a mother the object of such attacks and there will be a line crossed, an area breached, a nest disturbed that the resulting sting can only be sourced back to a revered queen. 
   The bond between a child and a mother is profound in its origin and eternal in its duration. Only a mother can know the feeling of having a life growing inside of her. Only a mother can understand the connection shared as the very fabric of her being is the fuel that sustains the engine of life within her bosom. A man can never understand this because a man can never experience the gift of pregnancy. I am a father but the connection I have with my children happened after they were born...a supplement to the connection they already had with their mother before they even saw the light of day.
   When thinking about the societal significance of mothers, think on this: anybody and everybody you see has come from one. To erase the mother from the equation of humanity is to erase humanity itself. Of those things we hold dear in life, the moments that make life special to us, mothers...most of all, will be at the apex. Ask any infant who the most important people on the planet are, and you will get the same answer all the time: mothers...most of all.
   Anyone that has lost their mother knows well the hole left in life by the absence of the one that loved you before you were even self aware to understand the love you were receiving. My mother passed away June 24th, 2000 and the memories of her love became that much more cherished after that day. My position might be somewhat biased as I implore anyone still blessed with the smile, hug, and scolding of their make everyday a happy day for her. 
   This particular day may happen once a year, but the love of a mother happens forever. For every mother that reads this, know that you belong to a special group, and exclusive club, an organization that can only be joined through the miracle of having given birth to another and continued nurturing...and becoming one of the most important people on the planet.