Monday, July 30, 2012

Movie Review: “Ip 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: 
   Donnie Yen delivers a great performance as Wing Chun martial arts master, Yip Man. In truth, everyone in the cast delivers great characterizations of the roles they have...but Yen has the most prominent, and having worked closely on the subject matter and with the students and family of the real Yip Man to make this film...captures much of the martial art, and no doubt delivers some aspects of the real Yip Man. He comes across as humble, yet very formal when engaging in combat. Later, he shows the depth of his humanity and grief when faced with the Japanese occupation of China.
The Plot:

   This film is based on a true events.
   In 1935, Foshun is a prosperous town in China...and Yip Man is the local master. All others seek to challenge him, including a gang from the north. Yip takes on all comers, and cements his position as the undisputed master. Living in luxury and prominence...everything changes when the Japanese invade China.
   Under Japanese rule, Foshun falls into poverty...and food is the only currency that matters to those going hungry. Yip uses whatever connections he has...and the reciprocation of his past acts of kindness to find work, and get food for his family. The Japanese set up a fight club for their soldiers...and entice Chinese participants with the promise of extra rice...and the fear of death.
   One of Yip’s closest friends is killed in this arena, setting Yip down a path of anger and revenge. Yip enters the club...and performs a feat never before seen, putting himself on notice, and setting himself up for the ultimate showdown for which victory means life...and defeat means his death, and the destruction of his family.
The Verdict: 
   I love martial arts films...but this one especially, struck a personal chord with me. Being a practitioner of Wing Chun, I was excited to see the art brought to life in such a unique, and fairly accurate way. When I say “accurate” I understand and accept the liberties the movie industry takes with this type of subject matter. Was everything in the film one hundred percent accurate with the tenets of the art? No...but it was close enough to be enjoyable.
   Donnie Yen is an incredible martial artist and the fight scenes in this film are some of the best ever any film. It isn’t just the art...although Wing Chun is a highly effective and simplistic combat form, it’s also the choreography. The fact that almost every fight scene has you either out of your chair or on the edge of your seat is a testament to the skill and dedication of every practitioner in the film. Further...the film doesn’t rest all it’s eggs in the fight basket, and tells a riveting story that seems all the more astounding when you keep reminding yourself that these events really happened.
   If you’re the type that finds historical movies interesting, there is something here for you. If you like great martial arts would be sacrilege to not see this movie as it stands apart as one of the most incredible displays of the art of combat. I can’t stress enough some of the mind-blowing sequences put together in this film...and will just say that this cup of tea was impeccable...and served up four, out of five, cinnamon sticks in my cup.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swimming With the Sharks

   “Shark Tank” is an excellent show that someone like me benefits from with every viewing. There is, however, one thing that stumps me to no end...the ability of some people to sink themselves when offered a great deal.
   Ok, admittedly, I make many assumptions when I postulate that someone has sunk themselves out of a great deal. I assume first that the deal offered was actually a great deal. I assume the person being offered the deal has no working knowledge of what a great deal is. This can be flipped the other way as the person could very well know what a great deal is, but for a reason unrevealed to me...has still rejected it. I’m no billionaire mogul, I’m not even the successful entrepreneur going in front of the sharks. I’m just a guy watching the show...and thinking to myself, “How the heck can you not understand the silver platter was just handed to you.”
   Work with me here. You have a company that has done $100k in sales last year. You go before billionaires (with a “B”) and ask for some of their money to make you even more successful than you’ve already been. They agree to help finance your business...they even offer their vast network of resources to make sure you’re successful. After all, they are investing their money, and they want to not only make their money back, but make a whole lot more of it than they invested. They want you to be successful. They want to continue to be billionaires (with a “B”). They rub their hands and lick their lips at the millions (with an “M”) they will make working with you and your business. They do all of return for 50% of your company...and you say...”no.”

   What? Say what? No? Really? Fifty percent of your company is just asking too much to make you a millionaire (with an “M”)...? I’m confused. I know I wasn’t that great in math when I was in school, but I wasn’t the class idiot either (we actually didn’t have one of those, nothing but big brains in my class). I also don’t corner the market in common sense (even though it isn’t very common at all), but I can certainly figure this equation out. Behind door number one, we have me owning 100% of my company and making $100k a year. Behind door number two, we have me owning 50% of my company making millions (with an “M”) of dollars a year. Lets say the company makes two million, just to illustrate this point. I choose door number one and walk away with my $100k a year....and leave $1 million dollars on the table., that wouldn’t be me. I can do the math.
   I’m probably being too harsh (as usual). Some people just don’t get the dynamics of what is going on...even though they have been blessed to have those dynamics introduced to them. I saw a guy, a firefighter from the midwest, walk away with a million dollars after giving up his invention (the patent and all) of a hose attachment...that is no doubt making the sharks hundreds of millions by now. I know, by his ear-to-ear smile he was thinking it was a great deal...he was a millionaire, but all I kept thinking was lease the patten and get a cut of the profits...for life!
   I saw another man, very successful with his wine business...and determined to push “wine-by-the-glass” completely miss the point of leasing the patten of his “by-the-glass” technique in favor of trying to make his wine business an even greater success. More power to him....but what could he have done with the millions of dollars lost on that deal? He actually had the opportunity to come back on the show...and in a display of unmitigated arrogance and foolishness, lose the very same deal again, this time for good no doubt.
   Human behavior never ceases to amaze and bewilder me. Some of these people need to swim with actual sharks...and maybe that experience will open their eyes to the ocean of opportunity they are swimming in.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Something Different

   Are we creatures of habit? I’m sure some reading this will answer in the affirmative. I’m sure some reading this easily recognize within themselves the comfortability of the same routine. Many people don’t like change and are resistant to it when it rears it’s ugly, and inevitable head. I happen to accept it whenever it occurs, but I’m also on the inside track because I know it will always occur. Sometimes though, we have to willfully break the routine. Sometimes we just crave...something different.
   Although better is preferable when making certain changes, better is not always possible. Sometimes different is just enough to breath new life into us...and give us a sense of refreshment. When I was younger, I never understood why sometimes I would see people, when making a decision on what to wear, or what to eat, or what to buy....say “I’d like to just try something different,” and make a choice with that being the only guideline. Now that I’m older (probably old to some) I understand that urge. I understand the curiosity. I understand the excitement of the challenge to take oneself out of the comfort zone.
   There are probably many reasons why any one of us would seek the sensation of “different”...but probably the biggest reason is complacency. Complacency is that ugly word, that smooth criminal, moving silently into every facet of our lives...without our notice, until we’ve been wrapped in it’s web for longer than we can remember. 
   It’s in our job, where we aspired to do greater things than we have done thus far, but got comfortable with the situation. Much time has passed before we realize that mundane is scrapping that spot behind our eyes...clawing at us to make a change. We transfer, change positions...get a new job. We make a change because it’s time for something different. If we never answer the call...if we ignore the signs or become so blunt that the sharp edge of complacency can’t be felt...we might end up dismissed or terminated, without ever realizing the true reason why change has come in such an unwelcome fashion.
   Complacency comes to visit us at our relationships. There is probably not a more unwelcome place to be for the silent stalker. There is probably no other place where it produces so much turmoil and causes so much damage if we don’t properly recognize it for what it is. It’s that voice in the back of the head rationalizing a wrong action into a right reason. It’s that feeling that creeps up offering excitement with a change from the outside...instead of a change from within. It’s the gloss over the everyday interaction with our chosen one, that makes us obtuse to the small details, instead of meticulous with every moment. It’s the root of the routine, in an area where being routine is detrimental to our long term goals. 
   Ever wonder how two people simply grow apart? Ever stop to contemplate what being bored in a relationship really means? Ever wonder where the excitement went...after its gone? Round up the usual suspect...complacency. I can hear some of you now...”Whoa, waitaminute. I’m not complacent, I’m full of spontaneity. How do you explain me?” Simple human nature. That drive and spark that has led the way to where humanity is now. That idea that says you can build a mouse trap...and keeps coming back to convince you that can build a better one.
   We were not meant to stagnate and be placated. No...I think we were meant to thrive, to push our boundaries, to ask hard questions that result in harder choices, to not always let change be an effect upon us...but become a cause for effective change. Complacency is our quiet reminder that we need to be active participants in our story, not just the narrator. That the story needs to enthrall us and capture our imagination...even as we imagine our way out of the prison of mediocrity. 
   Sometimes...we simply want to experience something different...and that is an elevating human condition, if we wish it to be.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sleight of Mind

   Magicians often use sleight-of-hand to fool your eyes so they don’t see what is right in front of them. You miss how the trick is done, and are awed by what you’ve seen...because of what you missed. Unfortunately, this is an everyday occurrence in life, notably with the news media, both on television and in print. It’s awesome to watch, but also sad as so many are taken in by the parlor tricks.
   Tuesday, July 17th (2012) edition of the Boston Herald is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Let me preface what I’m about to say by unequivocally stating that I am not a fan of the Governor of Massachusetts. I have been within arm’s length of him four times now...and he has never once thought enough of my vote to even acknowledge I exist. A simply “hello” would have gone a long way, instead of ignored as if I were the hired help (although technically, I was)...but I digress. The issue isn’t the Governor, although the Herald wouldn’t agree. The issue is the non-story being touted as news, but is only really serving as a distraction from the things that really matter.
   Now the State House parking logs are the top story, the most important piece of news going on in the lives of the residents of Massachusetts...not! People are still trying to find jobs, still need housing, still getting smashed at the pump, still besieged by community violence, still living life on tough terms...but all this falls to the wayside as we must know the hours state officials if the parking logs are an accurate measure of that anyway (not!).
   The article sited the fact that there are many variables that could paint an inaccurate picture such as method of travel (not always by car), on site staff providing entry, “off-site parking and extended stays” (page 5). It seems clear that the parking logs won’t be the best indicator of who is and is not doing their job on capitol hill...but the hunt for witches continues.
   No story like this could ever go by without the screams of “it’s my tax dollars and I have a right to know” or “ things aren’t this way in the private sector.” I roll my eyes every time I hear either one of these lame excuses for willfully detracting from stuff that is really important. First, they are not your tax dollars, that money was taken, confiscated from you by the government. It’s not yours anymore, it’s theirs. I patiently wait for everyone to finally catch on when it comes to “their tax dollars.” Second, the constant comparing of the private sector to the government sector is just pure fallacy as a reasonable retort. Such a position reeks of an attitude of haterism...not being able to cope with the fact that others can do, what you cannot. It’s a virus that is infecting society...and fueled by nonsensical articles designed to sleight the mind.
   Is there corruption in government? Certainly, there is corruption everywhere there are people as, inevitably, someone will do something they shouldn’t do. It’s human nature, like eating that bowl of ice cream when you know you’re on a diet. Do I need to seek it out to the point of barking up trees that have no leaves? Certainly not, such corruption always makes itself evident in some someone, and it comes out in the open.
   Ultimately, we should all be vigilant in what our brains digest as mental food. Parking records of the state officials isn’t food for thought, it’s a thoughtless meal. The real meat and potatoes is the issues that effect our daily living, and what our elected officials are doing about them. Show me legislation, show me votes cast...keep the parking records.