Saturday, October 29, 2011

Movie Review: "Unknown"

   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: 
   Liam Neeson is excellent, once again, and delivers a superb performance of a man waking up from a crash into a world that doesn’t know him, even as he struggles to know himself. Diane Kruger doesn’t give a “break-out” performance, but she’s adequate as a woman that gets caught up in the middle of a dangerous mystery. January Jones doesn’t have much to do...and she’s pretty good at doing that.
The Plot: 
   Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) is a biochemist newly arrived in Berlin with his wife for a conference, that must figure out who he really is...who everyone really is, after recovering from a car accident while trying to retrieve his lost briefcase. His wife doesn’t know who he is while her husband claims to be him. Nobody can be trusted and people are trying to kill him...and he doesn’t have any idea why.
   Gina (Diane Kruger) is the part-time cab driver that was driving the car just before the accident. Pulled into this web of mystery and murder, she is ultimately a loose end in a bigger plot and must commit herself to helping Harris find out who he really is to secure her own safety.
   As the pieces fall into place, it becomes clear that Harris is much more than he appears to be...and his situation is much more precarious than the slight case of amnesia everyone around him seems to be having.
The Verdict: 
   Unknown is a mystery with plenty of thrills and an adequate amount of action. The movie entices you to ask questions, and then raises even more when it attempts to answer.
   Liam Neeson carries this I expected, and being a huge fan, didn’t bother me at all. Almost every scene is dominated by him as we follow his wild chase to track down the truth of who he is and why nobody seems to know him...especially those closest to him. Once I was pulled into his world, it was easy for me to ignore much about the film that would normally detract from it.
   There isn’t much drama in this film, at least not anything that would win anyone any kind of award. Humor is nonexistent as I don’t recall a single joke or funny moment in the entire film. It was just off an running from the very beginning. Although somewhat slow for me at times, Liam Neeson delivers well for this film earning it two and a half cinnamon sticks...out of five, in my cup of tea.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Freedom of Health

   In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s very easy to become complacent and take certain aspects of life for granted. Everyone is guilty of it at some time or another. I have recently found myself in this category as I paused one day to ponder my circumstances. In reflecting, I remembered that I live in a country where freedom is a right that is precious and most revered. “The land of the free”...but there are some notable exceptions that I find disturbing.
   When it comes to the medical industry...and everyone should have an issue with those two words being coupled together, the idea that we live in a Topsy-Turvy world is only reinforced. Too often treatment that works is overlooked for treatment that can be prescribed. I’m not just standing on a soapbox and spitting in the wind...I’ve lived it. Believe me when I say it makes no sense at all. I offer anyone to comment here if they can make sense of what I’m going to recount next...
   Several years ago one of my children came home with Ringworm...and very kindly spread it to the other siblings. It was a severe case located in the scalp and called for a very specific treatment plan. When seen by the doctor, the course of action was to use anti-fungal cream and prescribe a pill that would eradicate the infection. I was all for eradication...what I wasn’t for was the possible side effect of liver damage. I don’t care what percentile of children actually get damaged livers, I wasn’t rolling the dice with mine. So here’s the million dollar question (for which I will not be rewarding a million dollars should you get it right):
*Does it make sense to prescribe medication that could potentially be fatal...for a condition that is nonfatal?*
   I didn’t think so either...and proceeded to do my own research into the subject. If you’re reading this and take only one thing from this post, let it be this...take control and responsibility for your own health. My research uncovered many treatments for ringworm that were natural and very much nonfatal. Established medical practice may scoff at the homeopathic approach, but I’m an advocate of anything that works effectively and efficiently.
   I used three alternatives in addition to the prescribed anti-fungal cream. One was a root from North Carolina (forgot the name). Another was tree resin...and the third was garlic. With four heads to experiment on...I wanted some solid answers...and I got them. All three alternatives worked better than the anti-fungal cream, which didn’t work at all. The most aggressive of the three was the far. Never seen anything like it...ate away the fungus like a school of piranha’s on a dead carcass. Now if I can find out this information without billions of dollars in funding, what is the excuse of the medical establishment?
   When we went back to the doctor, she wasn’t pleased at all, in fact, she was quite angry. So was I. I was angry because those I trusted with the health of my children wanted to risk their livers without any justifiable cause. Wait...I’ll correct myself because I was given a reason why the pill was prescribed and nothing else could be...or even spoken about. That was the directive from the medical board that all doctors must follow. Hold on...I’ll correct myself again, because although it was the reason, it still wasn’t a justifiable one!

   Some doctors know this information and are aware of other alternatives that work better and safer than what has to be prescribed...but there is no freedom to practice the caring of health, only directives to follow protocol. This wouldn’t be a bad thing if that protocol was motivated by the Hippocratic Oath...and not the hypocritical profits.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Topsy-Turvy World

 I live in a world turned upside down. They call it the planet Earth...and I simply don’t understand the gift of intelligence with much of what I see of the use it’s being put to. Life isn’t too complicated...most of the time, and many issues can be resolved by the application of common sense. I go again assuming that sense is shared by most, if not all, thus making it “common” when in reality it seems the only person using it is the one I see in the mirror. I’ll wager it’s the same for you...and since we all have mirrors...well, I can begin to see where the idea of it being common came from.
   In a world that made sense (not this one), certain things wouldn’t happen. I take that back...a lot of things wouldn’t happen, but if I start there I’ll never stop writing. Instead, let me focus on a couple of examples that prove my hypothesis that the world is indeed upside down and one-third of the population jumping at the same time just isn’t gonna be the fix I hoped it would.
   Let’s go to the bank and make a transaction. We’ll go on a Tuesday in the late afternoon because there will be no line...and every window will have a teller. Life is great at the bank on Tuesday afternoon. Now let’s go back on Friday between eleven a.m. and two p.m....because we are on lunch and we need to cash our check. The long line we encounter is expected...everyone is on lunch and needs to get some money. However, the ONE teller working during this time has turned the world upside down. Only the brightest branch managers can master the art of sending away all the help during the busiest time of the week. I’m just glad they fired all those other dolts that were scheduling the teller’s lunches around the rush...I mean really...I’d be pissed to walk in the bank on Friday...and think it was Tuesday instead. Who needs that kinda stress?
   That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. Mentally gifted bank managers is the least of my worries. Try this on for can throw a football with incredible speed and accuracy, and do it while avoiding a group of very large men intent on doing you harm. For being able to do this, we will pay you millions. However, if you are entrusted with the education of our future, or charged with keeping us safe by upholding the law, or selflessly put your life on the line to rescue total strangers...well, we’re gonna have to sit down and “discuss” this money thing.
   I like sports...I really do. Loved playing it in my youth, and like watching it now. However, I think the amount of money we pay athletes to do whatever it is they are doing is absurd. Erase professional sports from life’s equation and we’ll find another means of entertainment. Erase teachers, cops and firefighters from existence and we have a much bigger problem than deciding what to watch on Monday night instead of football. I have no idea when our value system tipped on it’s ear, but let’s tip it back for a moment and see the world right side up. 
   Imagine a world where the million dollar jobs were those of teacher, police officer and firefighter. Everyone would want to have one of those jobs...and aspire from childhood to get them. However, like sports in Topsy-Turvy World, only the absolute best could would qualify. A masters degree would only get you in front of a kindergarden have to do better than that if you want to get in front of six graders...and start making the big bucks. NFL training camp is where we weed out those that qualify to carry hose into a burning building or run down a robber. Can’t bench press three hundred pounds and run the forty yard dash in four-seconds...then you won’t be carrying a gun or an axe, and the only badge you’ll be wearing is mall security...if you’re lucky.
   I know...there aren't nearly as many professional athletes as there are public service maybe we won’t set the bar that high, but my point is we have to set it very high indeed if we’re going to pay out the big bucks. Every cop and firefighter will be the finest physical specimen society has to offer, and every teacher will be a mental juggernaut specifically set to unlocking the youthful mind. If you choose to be a professional athlete, a yearly salary of eighty-thousand dollars is a decent living for throwing balls and playing games.
   Yeah...imagine all that AND a teller at every window during the Friday rush. We can still call this the planet Earth if you like...except things will make sense.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No Smoking: A Journey From Addiction

   “Do you have a cigarette?”
   “No, I don’t smoke.”
   I don’t smoke...not anymore. I haven’t been asked for a cigarette in years, and so haven’t reflected on the subject in a very long time. I began to reflect now, as I walked passed a man gripped in the throws of a craving for a cigarette. Was I the first person he asked? With not much foot traffic in this particular area, it seemed likely he would be at the mercy of his craving for some time. Then...I was very glad to be able to proclaim that I wasn’t a smoker. No, “glad” doesn't quite cover it....more like elated, because it had not always been so.
   I started out like many, very young, and through experimentation. In my youth, there was very little anyone could tell me...because I knew it all. Well, I knew everything except that those few puffs on the stolen cigarette of my best friend’s mother would make me a smoker at thirteen years old...and have me smoking for the next twelve years. I’d tried to quit many times, but it was never for very long...and I don’t think I was really serious about the effort. I didn’t get serious until after my aunt past away from cancer. She was a long time smoker. The road to becoming a ex-smoker wasn’t an easy one...and it wasn’t like anything I had ever read or heard about from others that shared how they did it.
   Quitting smoking isn’t an easy thing to do for most. Sure, there are some people that quit cold-turkey and never look back...but the majority of people struggle with kicking the habit. Smoking is physically and mentally addictive. I applaud everyone reading this that is an ex-smoker...and implore any smoker reading this to do all you can to stop.
   The next part of this story will be viewed very differently depending on your particular personal beliefs...but this is my story, and I’m sticking to it. One day I became so distraught at my inability to stop...and still struggling with grief from the passing of my aunt, I knelt in prayer with complete sincerity in my heart. My only request was to be able to stop smoking. I stopped trying to quit after that figuring that if it was meant to be, then it would be...and I would finally get a palatable taste of divine intervention. I expected to wake up one day soon with no desire or craving to smoke and to be cured of my addiction in a snap. It didn’t happen...and I kept lighting up. I don’t know why I had the impression that miracles happen quickly...or exactly like you think they should, but the reality of my miracle will always be something to remember. Two weeks after my prayer, at the age of twenty-five...I caught chicken pox.
   To say I caught chicken pox is an understatement. My body morphed itself into something out of a horror film and I became something that barely passed for a humanoid. The reactions of everyone that saw me was not unlike the reactions of anyone seeing the Elephant Man unexpectedly for the first time. As bad as I looked, that wasn’t the worst of it...because I had more pox on the inside of me than I did on the outside. I developed pneumonia...severely, and had to be hospitalized for a while. Smoking was no longer an issue for me, replaced by breathing. Every breath, no matter how small, was absolutely agonizing. I have no comparison reference because I have never felt pain quite like that before. The pain was never ending as long as I breathed...and found myself trying to hold my breath to avoid the agony. The matrimony of life and pain was my simple reality.
   By the time this unique experience was behind me and I was back to normal operations, it had been almost two months since I had a smoke. The physical addiction was gone, even though the mental addiction lingered...but without the support of my body, it had no chance to reclaim me. I was from the servitude of a habit that held absolutely no benefit for me.
   As I look around, I see the changing times as smoking is less welcomed in the workplace and eateries and the rising cost of the habit borders on obscene. Health is becoming an issue of increasing awareness that more are taking seriously. We live in a country where most choices are free and we are free to make bad ones. I’m not one to wish failure on a business or anyone earning a living...but unless they can find a better use for tobacco, I hope the industry collapses like a wrong move in a Jenga game.