Friday, January 13, 2017

Mom Would Have Been 75 Today

January 13th, 1942



While I would not be born until 1970, this is perhaps the date that had the greatest impact on my life. My mother's birth and the life that followed, its highs and lows, its pleasures and its pains, created the person who taught me more about life than anyone else. Cancer took her from this world in 2004, at the age of 62 and my life was forever impacted.

I won't wax poetic, because everyone's mother is special in their own way. Each person views theirs as a cut above and it's understandable. Moms teach us compassion, nurturing and unconditional love. My mother taught me to care for those who are weaker, because they need it more, but never turn my back on the strong ones, because they need it too. From the time I was young, I watched her choose others over herself and until the day she died, she did for others, not always because they needed it, but many times, simply because it gave her joy to see others happy. She was a provider, protector, and always a teacher. She had her faults, like all of us and like all of us, she didn't always learn from them, but she did teach from them.

The past 12 and a half years, since her death, have not been easy for me.. Those who know me, knew my love for my mother and hers for me. She loved to praise me, but many times she saw the same faults in me, she hated about herself. Giving of one's money, their time or even their love is common. It's what family and friends do that make them family and friends. What my mother did was give of herself and what she never taught me was how rarely it's reciprocated and just how much it takes out of you. This is not to say she was not selfish at times and it's not to say I wasn't, but what I've learned over the last few years is how much she was willing to do for others, without every expecting and many times with full knowledge it wasn't appreciated. While she was dying, she sacrificed much more for others, to leave them with happiness, than anyone sacrificed for her. I'd like to think my efforts reached hers, but I know they pale in comparison.

Recently, I've fallen on hard times and I think back to the past, when she'd sit down to calm me with a little chat, that would invariably end up at us laughing at 2am. Little did I know how much strength, courage and care she was instilling in me. What amazed me most about her death, was how others reacted. While she lived, they flocked and knelt by her bedside, taking every ounce of her strength, so that they could be remembered. While I did the same so that I'd never forget a single moment I'd shared with her. Soon after she died, they were gone, we separated and the family, friends and everything I'd known, was gone.

A few times over the past two months, as I struggled with loneliness and questioned my self worth, I thought of all the times she stood up for those in need. She helped them through it, but then didn't stop. She continued, checked in, made sure they were sheltered, fed and comforted. She invited more people into our home for a night, who stayed for a week, or two, or a summer, than anyone I have ever known. She made sure their time was relaxed and that they had everything they could have dreamed. She did so without any expectations, other than they'd come again. She feared those she cared about were ever in need. I thought about that and how she taught me to care for those who we cared for, even when they were at their worst, even to us. I thought about my actions and those of others and I was saddened, because she'd be so let down by those around me. She spoke often about the selfishness that surrounded her, but she never let it change her.

Today she would have been 75 and I think back to two days before she died, when she told me she worried about me, because she knew my compassion for others wasn't shared with those closest to me. As I sit in a strange house, thinking of her life, I think about how if things were different, how no matter what, she'd be by my side and the worse things got for me, the closer she'd be, no matter how much she hurt. She taught me so much, but she never truly taught me how much she hurt by giving so much of herself and never seeing even a sliver of it in return. I know now and my biggest regret is never being able to tell her that I understand, because her last years would have been so much less painful. Maybe my pain is to remind me of her. As if I could ever forget, like all those others.

Monday, January 2, 2017

December 2016 Movies

  1. The Last King - Beautiful, but drags at times. Solid performances and great almost mythic tale.
  2. A Christmas Horror Story - Wonderful elves can't save Santa in this one.
  3. Black Souls - The movie might not resonate, but La Cosa Nostra has nothing on Ndrangheta.
  4. Department Q: The Keeper Of Lose Souls - With hints of GWTDT, this one is riveting.
  5. Department Q: The Absent One - Doesn't reach part one, but wow, what a follow-up.
  6. Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith - Amazing finale. Left me wanting ten more films/
  7. The Jungle Book - Feels longer than it is, but the laughs and heart string tugs work for adults.
  8. Compulsion - Based on Leopold & Loeb, Welles shines, making us question an eye of an eye.
  9. Happy - A documentary about being happy. Starts strong, but then becomes a little too preachy.
  10. Silent - Best animated movie under three minutes ever. No joke. It's brilliant.
  11. The African Queen - Re-watched an old favorite after many years. Bogey and Hepburn! 
  12. I Am Not A Serial Killer - Great idea, with awful twist ending, is unbearably boring.
  13. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within - Revered in Brazil, but it's a simple, played out plot.
  14. Journey To The West - A little long-winded, but beautifully shot, great fun and epic tale.
  15. Killswitch - Documentary on Net Neutrality. Nothing new, but concise. Could change minds.
  16. Sendero - Silly wrong turn tale, which borders on being good, but the dumb victims ruin it.
  17. Avenged - If not for laugh out loud bad script-writing, this one excels for a rape revenge film. 
  18. Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie - Silly cartoon segue, but seeing all these classics was fun.
  19. A Christmas Carol (Scrooge) 1951 - Alistair Sim is Scrooge. Wonderful and touching.
  20. The Thin Man - Powell dazzles, but Loy controls the film. Hammett's writing shines through.
  21. Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things - While I agree, this film fails
The African Queen, The Thin Man and A Christmas Carol were all movies I've seen before, so I'll leave them off the list. Silent was less than three minutes long, so I'll hold that one off too. This was the least amount of movies I've watched in a month in over two years. 

Top Three: The Keeper of Lost Souls, Compulsion, Killswitch
Bottom Three: I am Not a Serial Killer, Sendero, Minimalism
Biggest Surprise: Compulsion....only because I'd never heard of it
Biggest Letdown: I am Not A Serial Killer

My year long list, with over 300 movies will be posted soon, with my top 20 films I've viewed list to follow. I know you're all waiting with baited breath.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Final Thoughts On 2016

No, this will not be some memoriam to every celebrity who died this past year. While I too was saddened by the losses, it’s our individual lives and how those loves affect others that means the most. I won’t even discuss my personal woes, because the reality is, they’re mine and I own them. It’s called accountability and while this is in no way a pat on the back, it’s a lost art.

 This year has been a stressful one for me, but how can I complain when I have friends who have lost their parents, their siblings, their husbands and wives, even their children? I can’t in good faith ask for their pity or even their sympathy, or is it empathy, when I know the pain of losing the person who matters most to them. I can understand and show empathy and from where I am now, I can only do so by quietly dealing with life. Not the lemons we equate to bad tidings, but life.

People are enamored by clichés and their use of them says a lot about how we misunderstand our existence. Life isn’t meant to be viewed as “in comparison” to time. Life is time. And life is not short, it’s long. Very long. Some are cut short, but the average person will live to see parts of eight, maybe nine decades. My grandmother lived for 100 years and she died leaving me with the realization that we’re slaves to our routines and the very nature of routine is monotony. We do so, because it brings us a comfort and we, as humans, tend to be afraid of the unknown. We claim to be adventurous, but then we stay in the same home for 10, 20, 30 years. Some of us live within the same city or town for our entire lives. There is no adventure in that and it only makes life seem longer.

In 2016, I lost friends who were trapped in their own existence. Some confined physically and some mentally to a routine which made every day seem like an eternity. Hardships make time stand still and there is some truth to that adage that “time flies when you’re having fun.” I look back on my life and those I’ve lost, especially in 2016, and my time with them seems like a blur, because it was. I wish I could have a little more time with my friend’s father to play cards and laugh. To down drinks and laugh about the past with my friend Linda. To sit and gaze in awe at the strength of my friend Matthew and appreciate how much love he brought out of everyone.

This past year will be remembered for the loss of pop culture icons and yes, they had a huge impact on my life. An Impact I don’t mean to minimize in any way. But, we must remember, that they were also someone’s son or daughter and maybe even someone’s mother or father. They were someone’s best friend and someone’s lover. They were those everyday things for someone, who saw them as part of their routine, in a very long life, that suddenly felt much shorter when thinking back on the time with them and how that will never be again come to be.

This year was no longer or shorter than any other year, but in many ways, it made of our lives slow down, to experience the pain and speed up just fast enough for those moments of glory to seem fleeting. The new year will bring promise and within a week, maybe two, we’ll talk about the past year with some sort of nostalgia, remembering it as if it was ages ago, holding on to this falsehood that life is short. Life is long, but our ability to experience its joys are short. Especially in this age, where today’s revelation is yesterday’s standard, faster than we can remember enjoying the novelty. Sadly, we treat lives and friendships that way, because we don’t realize that we have time and loads of it. We just need to stop looking for the next moment, while we’re enjoying the present. For those who love clichés, it’s called the present, because we’re supposed to unwrap it slowly, enjoy it and be thankful for those who gave it to us.

 Goodbye 2016….you were, a year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Quick Story About Stuff

Living in a studio apartment for over a decade, then moving into a home that wasn't mine, followed by my current locale, a motel room, has lead me on a search for a new home. But, what do I "need?" What we want is at the forefront of our everyday lives and an entire capitalistic industry has fed of our desires, but it ignores what we need.

I won't bore you with the mathematics, but have you ever thought about hotels? I'm not talking about the Waldorf Astoria or the ones you see in Dubai. I'm talking your standard hotel room. Maybe even your standard motel room. You're paying somewhere in the vicinity of $100 for what you need. In actuality, you're getting more than what you need and you're paying much more than you should, but most of the money is going towards convenience. As I look at "my" room, I have everything, but a stove. I have two beds, I need one. I have three chairs, I need two, should I decide to entertain a guest. I have a nightstand, a dresser, a TV, a desk, a lamp a coffee pit, a microwave, a mini fridge, closet space, a phone, a laptop, two windows, a bathroom and a lock on my door.

Why did I list the last item? Security, despite being taken for granted, is one of our most important needs. Despite this "home" not being my own, it's my space and it's protected. As for the items. I have everything I need to survive and more. I have a place to sleep, to eat, to bathe. I have a place to store the things I truly need. I can keep my food  fresh and I can cook. I was offered a hotplate by a housekeeper, but I declined, because of my cat. Oh did I mention that my cat is with me. Don't underestimate the importance of a pet. Especially for those of you who are single.

So each morning, I wake up, have my coffee and breakfast. Each afternoon, I plug away on my laptop, searching for a permanent home and each evening, I either watch TV or, more likely, watch a movie online. The real splurge items come in the form of Netflix, Hulu and social media apps, most of which are free. My phone bill is my essential connection to the outside, but if I went by the number of people I actually speak with, I could probably get rid of that too.

In the next year, I'll be living in a new home. A place to call my own. A place where I'll sleep, eat, bathe and entertain, myself, my cat and hopefully someone else who shares in my thought process. What I need to live out the last days of my life is stuff you can't buy, can't see. It's stuff that is essential to your existence. Stuff that allows you to be part of the materialistic world, without entering it. The real stuff I crave, can't be seen or felt, at least not with one's hands.

Last night, despite all my woes, I sat and chatted with a friend about silly things. I laughed. I drank coffee. I stroked my cat's neck and he purred to let me know he was content. I purred back, because I was too..

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Alone

This blog used to be much more personal. A way for me to get off my chest and mind the things I couldn't always talk about. Nobody read it, which made it somewhat like screaming at the mirror, but for whatever, it helped. I gave it up a while back, when I started talking to real people, but I started to realize their ideas, thoughts, opinions and often their criticisms, were entirely based on their lives and not mine. I lost my outlet and I started to internalize. I'm not saying this will be my go to source for therapy, but maybe I need it. Maybe I don't. Maybe internalizing isn't such a bad thing after all. I mean, nobody really wants to hear other people's problems anyway, unless of course, they can make a buck off of them.

So an incident happened back in November and it put me in a bind. Without getting into a long-winded, detailed account, I threatened someone. Apparently, I threatened them in the worst way I could. I threatened to treat them as they had treated me. In a nutshell, I threatened to embarrass them. Nothing extreme. Nothing slanderous or even life shattering. I simply threatened to tell people what they said about them, behind closed doors. The irony is, the person I threatened had done this to me for the better part of three years and when I really delved into it, they'd done it to me for the better part of 46 years. Never happy with my achievements, my businesses, my hopes, my dreams, my desires, because they weren't "scholarly" enough. Not to overuse irony, but this person is a complete failure at life. Having the same job for five decades and never once getting the respect from his employer that I've enjoyed from every one of mine. Never doing a single thing of merit, other than existing. A lifelong functioning alcoholic, who is a narcissist, despite having nothing to show for that would warrant such narcissism. Some people call him by his given name, I used to call him Dad.

Now I sit in a hotel room, paid for by the kindness of my remaining family members I respect and love.  My brother, my sister-in-law and my beautiful niece. I await my next step. A move to a new home. It's taken away every ounce of pride I've ever had, but it beats being homeless. That was the alternative. An alternative, caused by an old man not wanting others to know he gets drunk and moans his friend Nick's name. How he feels entitled to women's charms, simply because of past indiscretions or because of a hot meal he paid for or cooked. How his friend's son is the local drug dealer, but he's supporting a wife and kid, so it's allowed. His defense of accusing me of "trying to kill him (with words?)" was that these people are scholars. Scholars? This warrants my life to be turned upside down, because I don't admire amateurish writing by people he wants to fuck or be respected by? Many have told me he's old and probably senile and while I don't doubt he has selective bouts of it, I think he's simply trying to feel important.

Back to Christmas. I should note that Thanksgiving was spent alone too. The one holiday that matters to me, was spent watching football on an old TV in a motel room, petting my cat and eating some vegan substitute for meat, while wondering why I had spent a decade of my life taking care of my mother, as she died, while he swallowed glass after glass of wine, laughing with friends he had "business" with and never seeming to realize a driver's license might assist us all. Something he quickly got once she passed, because of the inconvenience he was causing friends when asking to go shopping. That simple act of getting a license, could have saved ,me from dropping out of college, giving up one of my favorite jobs and moving on with my life, while everyone around me moved on with theirs. But that wasn't to be. Selfish, cowardly people, tend to suck the life out of others, then move on.

Enough about that situation and on to mine. Christmas was depressing. News of a friend passing away combined with the solitude and quiet of an empty motel, didn't feel festive. There was very little eating, no drinking and the idea of feeling merry wasn't in the cards. Woe is me, I know. It could be worse. I know. There are people getting bombed in Aleppo. I know. I am thankful. I am thankful that earlier that week, I got to hug my brother, my sister-in-law and my beautiful niece. I got to hold her tight and kiss her forehead, the same way my mother did to me. I got to reflect on my life and realize that as bad as the man I got stuck with as a father has treated me over the years, I have the love and compassion my mother instilled in me. And you know what? As bad as I felt and as alone as I was, she was there. Not looking down or in spirit or any other paranormal way, but simply in my heart. My father may read this and this blog alone could put me in jail (no, really), but it doesn't matter, because he knows I know my mother's true feelings. About me, about my brother and especially about him. If I believed a soul could spin, toss and turn in their grave, I'd feel sorry for my mother, because she'd be a tornado. If I believed in Karma, well you know. But maybe that's how life is, Maybe when that last breath is taken and he's all alone, he'll then realize, he doesn't even have her. I always will. No matter how alone I feel.

Monday, December 5, 2016

November 2016 Movies

  1. I Was Born, But - Ozu's 1932 silent film plays like a Japanese Our Gang and it's wonderful.
  2. The Victim - Thai horror film has as good a first hour as any I've seen, then the puzzle begins.
  3. The Sea Of Trees - Van Sant fails, by making the most predictable movie ever made.
  4. Cold Fish - Starts off strong, but devolves into splatter film with very little to admire.
  5. Sausage Party - A 90 minutes dick joke that lost me in the first 90 seconds.
  6. Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword Of Vengeance - Part one of six is everything you could want.
  7. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart At The River Styx: Wonderful second part delivers loads
  8. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades: A tad slower than the first two, but quite good.
  9. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart In Peril - A little better than third, but still fun.
  10. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart In The Land Of Demons: Gets back on superb starting track.
  11. Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven In Hell - Superb finale. Absolutely brilliant set.
  12. I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House - Good acting can't save it from itself.
  13. What We Become - Decent Zombie film, but lack of character development is a problem.
  14. Manhole - Korean serial killer could have been so much better, but worth a look.
  15. We Are What We Are (2013) - Dreadful remake, with Bill Sage's brooding all to blame.
  16. How I Live Now - A willingness to forget certain things adds to this well acted drama.
  17. Global Waste: The Scandal of Food Waste - well intentioned doc, fails in its delivery.
  18. Scherzo Diabolico - Horror is there, if Bogliano could get away from sex and nudity overkill.
  19. Brave - Re-watched - Like this Disney film more the second time.
  20. The Keeping Room - Exceptional acting makes this dud watchable. Marling shines.
  21. Stitches - Clown horror that is neither funny or horror. It's silly. 
  22. The Naked Prey - The lack of any true message hurts, but it's an intense ride.
  23. Colin Quinn: The New York Story - Easily the best standup in the past few years.
  24. Chronicles Of Evil - Korean crime thriller that delivers. First film in a while to shock me.
  25. The Duke Of Burgundy - It's beautiful and erotic, but it's so repetitive, it's hard to finish.
  26. High Lane - Beautiful people go hiking. All hell breaks loose. Tense and lovely scenery.
  27. The House Of Small Cubes - 12 minute Oscar winning short film. Absolutely perfect!
  28. Meridian - Short film that might be the worst thing I've watched in 2016
  29. Walt Disney Animated Short Collection - Wonderful with Paperman and The Little Match Girl!
  30. Goodbye To Language - Sorry Godard, but this is freshman philosophy and film. Why?
  31. Kathleen Madigan: Bothering Jesus - Hilarious at times, with a calm delivery. Refreshing.
I won't put shorts in the top or bottom three, but The House of Small Cubes was by far the best thing I watched this month and Meridian was by far the worst thing I watched. I also will stick to films and leave off any standup

Top Three: I Was Born, But..., Lone Wolf & Cub (all six films), Chronicles of Evil
Bottom Three: Stitches, We Are What We Are (remake), Sausage Party
Biggest Surprise: Chronicles of Evil
Biggest Letdown: Sea of Trees

November was filled with a lot of just good or just bad films. Only one great full length film, but some real duds. My lack of DVD availability this month really hurt my choices. It made me realize how much I rely on film for my sanity and to free my mind. This month, reality won.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October 2016- Movies

  1. Bound To Vengeance - Well above average rape revenge film. Two leads are amazing.
  2. Sweet Bean - Touching, simple tale about three lives that find meaning from each other.
  3. Moebius -Ki-duk Kim delivers the oddest film ever about castration, fetishes and incest. 
  4. The Shallows - If not for the lovely Blake Lively, this would be a worst movie ever candidate.
  5. The Darkness - Despite a nice cast, this fails on every level. As horror, it's a sleeper.
  6. Swiss Army Man - Dano is amazing in this hilarious and touching film, but truly awful ending.
  7. X Cross - Japanese horror that works initially, but then gets silly. Not awful, but not good.
  8. Cat People - Classic thriller/horror, uses light and sound to create wonderful tension.
  9. Devil - People stuck in elevator. Decent acting gets buried beneath silly non-twist.
  10. The Witness - Doc about Kitty Genovese detailing her brother's search for answers. Odd!
  11. The Wailing - Popular Korean thriller/horror did nothing for me. Two and a half hours of zzz!
  12. The Nice Guys - Hilarious! Crowe and Gosling have great chemistry, but Rice dazzles.
  13. Splinter - Fun horror and sometimes funny. Original, beautiful lead and good chemistry. 
  14. Summer Interlude - Early Bergman, simple, slow, but beautifully shot and great leads.
  15. Hellraiser (yes again) - Gets sillier each time, with horrid ending, but still fun.
  16. Suspiria - What it lacks in substance, it more than makes up for in style....and that music!!!
  17. The Conjuring 2 - Much better than the original, but still far from great. Solid acting though.
  18. I Saw The Devil - Rewatched and liked it even more this time. Violence that means something.
  19. It's Such A Beautiful Day - Don Hertzfeldt's stick figure movie says a lot. Almost too much.
  20. The Silenced - Well done, but lacks something. Repetitive feel makes it feel much longer.
  21. Tony - Subtle, almost sympathetic view of loner turned serial killer. Music adds to it.
  22. Them - Short horror film, that connects you to couple, then tensions builds....and builds.
  23. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) - Awful remake, despite lovely to look at Biel. 
  24. Free State Of Jones - True story is timely social commentary. Brilliant in every way. 
  25. Nosferatu (1979) - Herzog directs Kinski. Fails to match original, but Kinski brings it 100%.
  26. The Midnight Meat Train - Clive Barker wrote it. All-Star cast. Absolutely dreadful. 
  27. Vertigo - The greatest movie ever? I'm not sure it's in Hitchcock's top ten.
  28. Lovely Molly - Swings for the fences and comes up well short, due to convoluted story.
  29. Southbound - Horror anthology held together by the thinnest of strings. Fails to deliver.
  30. Trick 'R Treat - Rewatched this classic and it was better than the first. Sam is bae!
  31. La Horde - Action packed zombie flick with tons of cliches. Americans will hate it, I didn't.
I will preface that I am not putting anything I've seen before into my top 3

Top Three: Free State of Jones, Sweet Bean, It's Such A Beautiful Day
Bottom Three: The Darkness, Southbound, The Midnight Meat Train
Biggest Surprise: Bound to Vengeance
Biggest Letdown: The Wailing

Rewatched some classics and probably rewatched more films this month than I have in the past nine months combined. There were some really beautifully touching and thought provoking films this month, but no film made me think more than It's Such a Beautiful Day. An animated film, I will son return to and it may creep into my top 20 of the year. That being said, don't listen to reviews or McConnaughey haters, Free State of Jones is one of the best movies of 2016.