Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Review: “About Time”

   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: 

   Domhnall Gleeson plays Tim, red-haired and eager for a girlfriend, but lacking the skill to make his desire reality. Turning twenty-one and learning the family secret gives him hope that his circumstances will change. Gleeson is excellent in pulling off the awkward, yet sincere, role of a man looking for love and trying to help those he loves. Rachel McAdams plays Tim’s wife Mary, and compliments Gleeson very well. Bill Nighy is excellent as the father passing on the family secret, enjoying life and ultimately personifying a father’s love for his son.

The Plot: 

   Tim has just turned twenty-one and inherited the family secret. The males in his family have the ability to travel back in time. Of course the revelation of this news from his father is taken quite lightly at first, but Tim soon discovers that it is indeed a serious development.

   Tim decides that with his newfound abilities, he will achieve the one desire that has been eluding him…a girlfriend. Unfortunately, he learns fairly quickly that time travel will not make a girl like you. That said, it can be used to make a favorable impression on a girl that is already interested…or at least open to being interested.

   After Tim meets Mary, he sets out to win her heart, and seems to have plenty of time to do it. Eventually Mary becomes the girlfriend Tim has always wished to have and as far as dreams go, don’t get much better than when they get married.

   Along the way, Tim learns some very important limitations to his power as he tries to help those closest to him when they are in need, and only a quick jaunt through time seems to be the remedy.

   As life moves forward, Tim is faced with life situations that even time cannot fix, and learns some of the most important lessons, about love and family, that only living life can teach. What follows is a film that tickles the soul and touches the heart in a profoundly rare way.

The Verdict: 

   This is one of the best films I have ever seen. I know that’s a terrible way to lead off the verdict, as there is no build up…but I want you to see this film as quickly as possible as it was a complete surprise to me that it would be so funny and moving.

   The film doesn’t rest its weight on time traveling, but instead uses it as simply a way to advance the story and get its message across. That message is peppered with some very funny scenes and situations that reflect the witty mind of the writer and add a comedic element that perfectly offset some of the more serious parts that inevitably come in a film about living life and dealing with everything it throws at you.

   The film also opens up the mind to the possibilities presented to us every day, but in a way that conveys the idea that a “do over” isn’t always what we think it would be, and probably very rarely what we think it should be. Life is unscripted, and the idea that this film can present it otherwise speaks volumes…especially when that presentation reveals and reinforces the fact, that life is unscripted.

   I was unsure of this film, but intrigued enough by the time travel aspect to give it a try. Not sure that it would be my cup of tea, I am elated I gave it a shot as it went back in time, and delivered four cinnamon sticks, out of five…and generated a flavor that can only be described as one of the best.

Rating 4/5

Friday, November 22, 2013

Family: Closer Than You Think

   I can’t speak for anyone else, but I view family as the most important establishment today. There is no unit of measure more important to our wealth, health and well being than family. You can’t choose them, but they wouldn’t be that special unit if you could. Where you come from is an important component to where you’re going, and how you’re getting there. Those that turn their back on their past, risk depriving themselves and their future generations access to the sources of the very codes that define who they are. See, family isn’t just those people that congregate in your home with what seems like the sole purpose of consumption (those would be locusts), but it’s also everyone that came before you, having a hand in your production…and everyone that will come after, produced by those same hands plus yours.

   I recently had a personal revelation that clearly demonstrated how incredible the human story can be. Like most everyone at some point, I asked the million dollar question: What am I? The experiences of childhood and social developmental paradigms beg that such a question be asked sooner or later. What makes us who we are? Where do we come from? What are our genetic origins? In my case, being brought up by a single mother, such a question spiraled off into who my family was…my entire family.

   So, the question is asked and the answer varies for all of us. Our parents tell us where we come from, what racial mix congregates within our DNA, and the adventure begins. I remember one day boarding the school bus and revealing that I was part Native American. To my surprise, everyone on the bus was Native American as well…and all shared the same tribe, Cherokee. I laugh now at the childhood memories, after all, it was the only tribe that anyone could remember from class, and sans any specific tribe mentioned in the telling from parent to child, Cherokee filled the void. In my case, my mother was very specific though…I was Cree.

   The interesting thing about the times we live in, is that science has come such a long way, that it has taken much of the mystery out of our personal history. So while we are told we are this or that, science can now confirm the telling. In my case, Portuguese and Irish went along with the Cree (and obviously my African origins). In taking a recent DNA swab, the possible countries in Africa were reduced to just Cameroon, and Germany popped up on the radar (which probably explains why I’ve bonded with my Audi). It should be noted in DNA testing that the larger the database, the better the results. So if you’re going to do it, use the company with the biggest database you can find.

   Leave it to the family genealogist (thanks Tiffany!) to add to the massive and ever expanding family tree that reveals the incredible story of my family, as followed through my father’s bloodline. My family tree is on Geni (highly recommended) and I check it often. Recently I saw the addition of a new name…Yorke. Always one to get to the heart of the matter, I went to the oldest male in the line and read the profile.The beauty of Geni is it maps out your relation to whatever profile you are looking at. As it were, Charles Yorke was born in Nova Scotia in the 1700’s, his wife in Ireland…and they are my fourth great-grandparents (say what?).

   Let that sink in.

   Two kids in Canada meet, fall in love and start a family. Now I don’t know what Canada was like in the 1800’s, but I’m sure it was distracting enough that those two kids never gave a single thought that six generations from their union, they would have a Black grandson living in America. It’s incredible and speaks volumes about how truly connected we can be.

   Who are your family? An easy enough question until you consider that all it takes is one person to marry outside their race, and their offspring to marry within the race of their spouse for a few generations, and you’ll have people of two different races, looking radically different from each other…yet related by the blood in their veins and DNA in their body. So, how expansive are our families…really?

   Consider also that for anyone practicing a policy of hate based on racial differences, could very well be doing so against someone whom they think is far removed from them, but is in actuality…closer than they think. It’s something to think about the next time you’re dealing with someone whom you consider impossible to be related to, because the true origins of who you are and where you come from could reveal that your family might be a lot closer than you think they are, especially when you’re among people you think are so very far removed from you.

   Fast forward and say hello to my great-great-great-great-great-grandson…a Chinese man living in Brazil.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Dating Game: Playing to Win

   Dating is many things to many people, but it’s highly unlikely that people date for the express purpose of failing to meet that special someone, or to not have fun, or to fail at whatever their goal is for subjecting themselves to that entire situation. If you’ve read my first installment of the subject (The Good Side of Dating), then you know it started off by saying:

Dating: Two actors coming together for one night to put on a show...for each other.

…and ended by proclaiming:

Dating: two people presenting themselves honestly to each other for one night...and either having a good time, or learning a valuable lesson.

   Now it’s time to add to all that since humans are so complex, and matching up with the right one seems to be about as easy as hitting a moving bullet, with a bullet. Not to say it’s an impossible task, but those odds aren’t the kind I’d go betting the mortgage on. The question that should be asked (you would think) is why is it so hard to find that right person? However, the real question is much more complex than that. We assume it’s hard to find Mr. or Mrs. Right because the search seems so tedious, but perhaps it’s not as hard as we make it out to be. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves why we make it so hard to find that special someone.

   Before we dive into this pool of reflective analysis, let’s quickly examine why we call it (dating) a game and what, if any, significance there is to the label. Firstly games are usually fun (unless you’re the one with no money in Monopoly rolling the dice from Hell). So too is dating usually fun, but again, there are those bad Monopoly instances. In games there are usually winners and loser (as oppose to the unrealistic games of today where everyone is a winner). So too in dating will we find someone that thinks they’ve won (and might have) and someone that thinks the other is a loser. Good games have excellent replay value. Dating is replayed as well, even to the extent that it takes on different venues than the traditional night out to dinner and a movie (again, haven’t yet touched on internet dating). So it’s clear that the dating scene being compared to a “game” is not entirely without merit. Now the question is how you win at it.

   Earlier I stated that we make it hard, in contrast to the belief that it’s just hard, plain and simple. I’ll tell you now, if you’re the kind of person that goes for a certain “type,” you might be falling into a trap of your own design. Think about it, if you are not having any luck whatsoever with the type you are responding to, then perhaps the problem isn’t them, but you. You are going for (or falling for) the wrong type. Whatever type that is, you should re-label it “incompatible.”

   Stepping outside our established norms or comfort zones is not the end of the world. Indeed, the act of dating is just such an occurrence (a step out of the norm and comfort) and an expansion of this might just net some unexpected gains. This is especially important for those entering the dating scene after long or bad relationships…or worse still, bad relationships that lasted a very long time. There is a bit of institutionalization that has happened and breaking what has been established as normal isn’t always easy.

   Everyone is not going to react or approach things in the same way. To hold a new love interest to an old one’s standard is unfair and probably self defeating for the purpose of why the date is happening to begin with. To cling to “a woman should know this” or “a man should do this” is just casting a net that will only catch the same fish you have been throwing back into the ocean. If you’re into pointless cycles, than stop reading and continue the circle of disappointment.

   As if all this isn’t controversial enough, let’s push the envelope a bit and talk about sex. Just the very mention of the word is probably enough to start a riot and unleash a plethora of questions, not the least of which will probably be when to have it with the new person you’re dating. My answer is whenever you want since the “right” time is the time it’s happening (or else it wouldn’t be happening). Some will undoubtedly argue this point and cite the reason being that they had bad sex…so it was obviously the wrong time.

   Well, being a guy, I can’t say I’m on board with the idea of bad sex (ouch), but I can say that like dating, sex is a learning process which encompasses learning what your partner likes and dislikes, as well as exploring new possibilities. I’ll never understand how some will accept the laborious search for that special someone, but reduce sex to a moment that must move mountains. As if the idea that two people learning each other in a relationship and thus have steadily improving sex is just some silly notion pulled out of the anus of this weeks tabloid quack.

   Winning the dating game may not be easy, but we don’t have to make it any harder. The world is a big place filled with lots of great stuff. Mixed into all that stuff are people just trying get along in a life they are willing to share. Nobody is perfect (although now that I think about it, changing my name to “Nobody” might be a step in the right direction), but if we take a small step outside our self-built bubbles, we might finally discover a relationship that is good enough to call “winning.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Ebb and Flow

   There are many metaphors used to describe life, and all of them are accurate at some point in time. Find any one of them you like or think sums up the totality of life, and you can probably find some instance in your life experiences where it proved true…at least at the time. I find that instead of applying or trying to live by words of wisdom (although the application of such does have its moments), reflective analysis does wonders to put things in perspective and paint the bigger picture.

   People live by different beliefs and philosophies and what works or doesn’t work depends entirely on what is working, and what has not. Simply put, if its working for you, then it works. Now the question of it working for the next person can only be answered by the bravery of the next person to try it. That all said, everyone has a plan…even if that plan is no plan at all. This is important to establish early on in this post because the revelation that life doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your plan is crucial to making your plan work…for you.

   We’ve all been there. Plodding along in life with our best laid plans guiding us to tangible goals and milestones by which we are measuring the progress of our lives. Life decides, for whatever reason, that your plan needs altering, and off the rails you go! Suddenly things are way tougher than you’ve ever expected them to be and although time is ever moving forward, you feel as though you are in a rut…stuck in time with nothing but headaches and pent up anger readily available for placing blame.

   One day you’re on top of the world or at least riding high enough not to care to make the comparison and the next you are starting over…and because it’s hard, you view it with negativity. Now, consider that starting over is sometimes the best way to get ahead. Think about it. If the path you were taking was headed to where you wanted to be, then you probably wouldn’t be derailed. Instead you’d be still steadily headed forward. The fact that it ended is proof enough that an alternative is required. I say that with such surety, but that’s because I’m of the belief (again, it works for me) that there are no coincidences in life, just plans…most of which aren’t controlled by you.

   Let’s continue with an example to highlight the idea that going back is also going forward. A man and woman meet and merge to journey life together. For whatever reason (because it really isn’t important in the big picture, just the smaller details), they separate and go back to journeying alone (or even perhaps with someone else). Now this can be viewed as a step back, but as the motto of this blog (Every angle cannot be seen until there is commitment to turning the shape) applies here…especially here.

   Seeing a chance at a “do over”, getting an opportunity to get it right, is only viewed negatively when one is not turning the shape of their life around, and seeing the unseen angle of a second chance for what it really is. It’s an opportunity to apply what you have learned from the derailment of your first plan, in order to come up with a better second plan. Now let me be clear, the use of the terms “first” and “second” are used only for example purposes…and it may take several more plans before the right one is formulated that works (for you).

   I tend to think of it as the ebb and flow of life. Like the ocean (ah, you didn’t think you’d escape this post without a metaphor did you?) , it flows and floods the shore, but then ebbs a bit before rushing forward again, deeper inland than the first push. Understand, going back a bit isn’t the bad part, it’s staying back and not pushing forward again that seals the deal unfavorably.

   Taking the previous example, suppose that after the split, he or she meets a much better companion, form a more effective plan, and make strides and gains previously not seen in all the struggles of the former arraignment. Would starting over be such a bad thing after all? I’ll even go further and say that the best case scenario I just described doesn’t come to pass. Would starting over still be such a bad thing over prolonging an arraignment that no longer benefits or supports the established goals? What good are goals that you aren’t trying to reach? They might as well not even exist…and then you really have entered into the “rut” stage of life.

   Everyone has plans that come apart at the seams and understanding that life does this often and without mercy (The Universal Plan) is key to understanding that such occurrences are also part of the plan…it just wasn’t your plan. Accept the ebb, embrace the new plan, and flow forward once again.