Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parenting - Observations Through Kids

I recently mentioned how despite kids inquisitive minds, they don't harp on the aesthetics of the human form when in a negative way.  Their minds work completely devoid of things like shame, worry and in many ways seriousness.  My rosacea went almost unnoticed because of my bald head and my red, dried and bulbous nose made one child refer to it as a "Pirate's Nose," which he followed with a hearty "arrrrrr."  It takes the pain of being an adult away most times and for that I am grateful.

I've always been fascinated by one aspect of human behavior when it comes to parenting.  Why do some parents have no memory of how their parents actions, if performed similarly, would have affected them.  The other day, I had a child who was in my Kindergarten Sports class.  He has missed the first week and was one of the few kids in the class who was not in the Spring session, so he truly was a "new" kid.  My class met in the auditorium and one child was missing.  I explained to the chaperons that it was the same child who missed last week. They quickly explained he was in the hall with his father, getting his sneakers on.  He somehow managed to never make it into the auditorium and spend the 10 minute waiting period with the other kids.  I knew this was going to be an issue.  Then one of the chaperons came over and told me something that I feel is the biggest taboo there is; he wanted to sit in on the class.

Now, I have no problem with parents coming early to pick up and watching their kids play.  To be honest, I've had parents sit by the doors, peering in through the windows, just to see their kid having fun.  That is fine and wonderful. Unlike many people who do what I do, I am beyond confident, not only in my abilities with the kids, but my abilities with the parents.  The father approached me, hesitantly asking if it was OK. He had his younger son with him and I explained it was fine.  He assured me this was a one time deal.  I walked with his son to the gym and briefly explained what we do.  The kids, of course knew they had a little more of an audience and their behavior quickly went downhill.  Once we started playing, I quickly realized that this child was fine.  A few times during the class other kids walked over to say something to the dad and to talk to the little brother.  The father giggled a few times and as the class wrapped up, the child walked over to me, apologized and asked me what my names was (again). I quickly told him, I forgot to tell him and it was my fault and told him to call me Jon.  The father asked that he go through the dismissal  process like the other kids and walked down the hall.  The kids all proceeded back to the auditorium and prepared to meet their parents. Ironically, the father who stayed was not the first to sign out.  He let a few mothers who seemed to be in a rush to go first and then approached.  He shook his head and thanked me.  He then turned and said, "I'm not sure how you do what you do, but that was amazing.  That age, that many kids and they adore you, even when you're telling them to stop doing something.  I'm exhausted just from sitting and watching."  I thanked him for the kind words and walked back to the rest of my kids.

Nice guy.  Seems like a good father.  Caring, obviously.  Those are all wonderful qualities, but this current trend of not letting kids experience things on their own has always troubled me.  Kids can be cruel.  Sometimes even the little ones.  If this had been my first grade class, there is no doubt the other kids would have teased him.  That one moment could have ruined the entire experience for him.  I know, because I've had it happen and the kid didn't return for two years.  When he returned, he was the only kid who hadn't been in the class for two years in a row.  It wasn't the same for him.  He dropped out soon after.  Now there may be underlying reasons for why parents feel the need to sit in, but the reality is, most times it's not the kid, but the parents.  This short leash is a bit of an irony, because these are almost always the parents who do not play ball with their kids or do athletic activities.  So who are they watching?  Who are they judging? In this particular school, they can ask anyone about my reputation, so it can't be that.  I've been there three times as long as this particular class has been alive.

It brings me back to a story from many years ago that I just told to someone.  I had a class of about sixteen 2nd grade boys. One of the kids, was a star athlete for his age, but he was the younger of two boys (the brother wasn't as athletic but was a pretty tough kid).  He was a delight to work with, but he was a Mommy's boy.  His mother, a very attractive and charming woman, was always about 15-20 minutes early, as most parents were when I started and would sit and watch.  One day, while playing kickball or baseball, he slid into home to beat a throw and slid right into the catcher's knee.  His head snapped back and hit the floor.  Immediately, his mother started to run towards him.  I quickly yelled out, "Mrs. N, please don't" and slowly walked towards her son.  She had this look of shock that I would do this, but then looked at her son, sobbing and sat down.  The kid, seeing his mother's retreat, quickly sprung to his feet, looked my way, wiped his eyes and exclaimed "I'm fine, was I safe or out?"  I had a little chuckle and said told him he was out.  He then went on a mini rant saying he beat the throw and I once again laughed and said, "yes, you did, but you never touched home plate, because your head went into the catcher's knee."  He laughed and went back to his team.  A few minutes later, I walked over, felt the kid's head and asked how he felt.  He told me he was fine and the mother came over, put her hand on my back and whispered, "he's not here, but you are officially my husband's favorite person on the planet.  Thank you for what you did.  Not for my son, but for me.  I need to stop babying him."

Now, this isn't a story of how wonderful I am.  This easily could have gone the other way, with the mother becoming angry and costing me my job.  Honestly, I know people who have been bumped from schools for less.  I just felt I knew the kid and the family well enough to react the way I did and I knew the mother was treating her youngest much differently than her oldest.  I think parents really need to take a second before they do things that could have adverse effects on their kids.  They need to think if they were treated that way as a child and if so, how did they feel?  I've had tons of stories similar to this over the years, but I think it's because I know who I can do it with.  I will never ever pretend that I know everything there is to know about working with kids, because it's an always evolving process, based on so many factors.  One thing that 20+ years of working with them has made me an expert on, is dealing with parents.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Dream Home

As people who know me fairly well have probably heard, I live in the world's smallest apartment.  I absolutely hate it, but not for the reasons you might think.  I do not hate it for it's minuscule size.  I won't go into the actual size, because I don't want the focus of this little story to be bogged down by people's amazement on how I haven't gone out of my mind, but let's just say, I can literally reach my fridge and TV while laying on my bed and a walk to the bathroom take less than five steps. Yes really.

So the other day I'm looking at a website that featured micro-houses and then some other small home sites and it got me thinking to what I wanted from a home.  In the early 70's my parents bought some land in Andes, NY and with basically no experience at all, they invited some more handy friends away for the weekend to build a house. They slept in tents and started construction on the house they knew they wanted.  The basic cabin was one large room with a ceiling that slanted from low to high from back to front.  The front of the home was an L-shape that featured floor to ceiling windows that looked over a hilly meadow down to our pond.  The L was a nook for which was perfectly sized to hold nothing but a queen sized bed.  There was a stove in the middle of the cabin which heated it in the winter and a small kitchen area.  Oh, did I mention there was no electricity?  Across from the master bed there was a single bed against the wall with a large window on the side.  There was a back room, which featured a bunk bed and some shelving.  That was the cabin.  Simple and plain. Our dining room table still serves as my father's kitchen table. A great three fold table that served as my TV stand for many years.  We had no plumbing either and moon lit walks to the outhouse were sometimes scary for newcomers.  We washed in the sometimes frigid water which spilled out from our pond and sustained ourselves quite a bit on our garden.  Well whatever the deer and rabbits were willing to leave us. My parents sold it for what at the time was a huge profit and regretted it every day after.  The house, to them, was perfect.  So what would my perfect house be like.

First off, my house would be small.  It would have to all lay on one floor, because my knees simply can't take stairs anymore.  It wouldn't need tons of property, but my desire would be to have large sliding glass doors, with a small deck attached pointing west, so that every night I might catch some magical sunset.  The front, would have a porch, with at least two chairs, so myself and whoever might care to join, could sit on a rainy day and enjoy the sounds of water hitting the roof.  One of life's true simple pleasure is sitting protected with a steady rain, sipping a hot cup of coffee on a cool spring or autumn morning, paper in hand, with the travesties of the world seemingly so far away.

The interior would be very quaint.  I would love to have a kitchen, big enough to be able to indulge in my passion for attempting to cook gourmet meals, but small enough to enjoy a cozy breakfast for two on a Sunday morning in December.  Ideally a short strip with counters on both sides, one with the sink and oven, the other counter space to work, opening up at the end, to a breakfast nook with a built in booth, a large window to let the sun in on those mornings or the stars during dinner.  The dining room would be small, opening up into the living room, if it ever needed to be adjusted for a group.  The details of the living room are unimportant.  A large round table surrounded by couches and chairs.  Hell the room could be round for all I care.  My biggest pet peeve is everyones desire to have a television be the focal point of their living room.  This frat boy mentality only works well if that is your desired guest list, but my desire would be to have a setup where nobody is on the end or in the corner, but everyone is part of the circle.  Cheese, dips, pate and charcuterie donning the center on a table or more likely a giant lazy Susan, like those you find in some Chinese restaurants.  The walls would be adorned with bookshelves and bright vibrant paintings celebrating life. A hidden stereo would play on a surround sound system when needed.  The room would also house a fireplace.

The master bedroom would be simple.  A bed, cut into the walls, much like my parents house, with walk in closets on either side. My view from beneath the sheets would be of a magnificent fireplace, in between two large windows. Who needs a TV in bed, when you have a fire to look at? I don't take baths often, but would love to go a little upscale on the bathroom, with one of those showers where jets hit you from all areas. There is nothing better than a good shower at the end of the day or to start the day, although I do find them so relaxing, that on many weekends, I will shower to get ready to go out and find myself asleep within ten minutes of getting out. There would also be two smallish guest rooms, with the bare necessities.  Queen size bed, small dresser and access to the guest bath from either side.  I would also want a small office  Nothing more than a desk for my laptop and printer with a window to get some natural light.

So far, this sounds like a fairly boring house.  It's probably no more than 800 sq. feet.  Below the home however is where I too would be greedy.  The basement would cover the same square footage that the rest of the house covered, but there would be three very distinct sections.  There would be a laundry room, which would have a shoot, where I could drop laundry from the bedroom down into a laundry basket. There would be a dumb waiter so that I might deliver snacks from the kitchen to any guests who might be present for a card games, to shoot some pool or watch the game.  I would have televisions on the walls on one side, with ample seating for the guys to come over for a game, but on the other side, I would have an enclosed room with nothing but huge pillow chairs and large television for my own mini movie theater.  The seating would be limited, being that I absolutely abhor watching movies with other people, but do realize cuddling with that someone special, while watching a film is another of life's simple pleasures.  A small half bath would also reside downstairs.

I don't need much in terms of a backyard, but if it was a more rural setting, a subtle hill leading to a pond might be nice, but if I was to be in a more urban or suburban setting, I think I might like a stone patio, with two round picnic tables, a grill and some grass area for kids to play.

To be honest, even in my own dream, I've gone further than I wanted.  The reality is that I don't need the guest rooms or the study, the massive downstairs or the mini-theater.  I don't need two fireplaces or even the dining room.  The times I'm happiest is when I'm with one person who is special or the handful who mean the most to me and for that, I only need a small space, because I feel those who need so much space to entertain are only entertaining the fantasy that so many people matter.  I know who does and seating is limited.

Shortest Movie (Positive) Movie Review Ever - Kill List

Quirky Blog Title?

Kill List is a British crime drama, thriller and horror film all rolled into one.  Yes that is right; all three.  To describe anything in it, would be to give major story lines away.  I will say this. There is not one scene in the entire movie that doesn't hold some meaning.  Not one.  At 95 minutes, that is a fairly difficult task.  The movie wraps everything up into a not so neat package that might have some scratching their heads.  I will fully admit, I was confused at first, but then replayed the movie in my mind, scene by scene and then it hit me.   The things that shocked me no longer shocked me and this was OK.  The movie is very clever, very odd and brutally violent. There is a social commentary in the movie that also plays a part, maybe even a character and they is our ambivalence to violence.  Much like Michael Haneke's 1997 film (and 2007 American remake) Funny Games, the movie plays on our acceptance of violence, which has turned into somewhat of a blood lust. This outshines those two films and delivers where they just repulsed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Oscar Thoughts

For the first time in 33 years, I did not watch the Oscars live.  The Oscars has always been a tradition and my mother and I would yell, scream, laugh, cry, sing along and dance with all the selections.  There was a time, long ago, when I would have seen a good number of the movies involved.  This year, they are few, if any.  I am a film fanatic, but I detest the theatre, because somewhere along the way, we've broken the social contract of acceptable public behavior and to save myself from possible incarceration, I've decided to forego the mass viewings and wait til each masterpiece appears before me, whilst laying, most likely in my underwear, under a comforter with a cup of coffee and my dreams.

Not seeing was interesting, because I had to live vicariously through the likes of Roger Ebert, Patton Oswalt, John Hodgeman and a host of comedian and B-list celebrities and journalists I follow on Twitter.  This made, for what I can assume, a much funnier night than to watch Seth MacFarlane poke fun at people in person that he's been poking fun at through a cartoon for many years.  It also gave me the chance to go back and view videos with some kind of perspective.  

Please realize one thing about me. I'm not a fan of movies.  We all are to some extent.  I haven't seen any of the Transformer movies or the Avengers.  I haven't see any of Channing Tatum's movies (since people have known who he is) and I hated The Hunger Games.  I fancy myself a bit of a film historian, viewing films from the likes of Griffith, Marnau and Eisenstein.  I'm obsessed with the works of Bergman and more recently the horror master Takashi Miike.  I find Anderon and Baumbach more up my than Apatow or Sandler.  I despise American cinema for the most part but there are numerous exceptions.  So I ventured into the speeches, the performances and the follies with full knowledge of what to expect and was not, for one second shocked by any.  Here is my very subjective opinions.

Ryan Seacrest was on the red carpet and say what you will about the man, he is charismatic, charming and a hell of an interviewer.  His ability to make big name stars feel humble and relaxed enough to let their guard down is a gift that few have.  We don't always like his trademark hair and smile, but the man is a power in his field and the reason why is because he is good at it.  Anyone who watched any of the red carpet, realizes how incredible his interviews were and how bad Kristin Chenowith's were.

I loved Shirley Bassey, hated Jennifer Hudson and Catherine Zeta Jones, was blown away by that one guy, who isn't a star from Les Miserables and then there is Adele.  The greatest voice we've heard in years. Even the greats like Janis, Tina and Stevie don't hold a candle to her power.  She evokes memories of better times, when Bessie and Ella sung.  I don't know who they'd hold up against her.  She's a voice, a passion, a heart that we haven't seen before.  She's 24 by the way.  Kudos for Barbra Streisand too, for coming out for the first time in ages and completely killing her classic "Memories."

Ang Lee's "upset" win for Best Director is not an upset.  He is in fact, the best director of the bunch and he's been doing it for a while.  Everyone loves him for Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain, but let's not forget about The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Eat Drink Man Woman.  This man is just about the best there is not named Coen.  Sorry Ben, Steven and all the rest.

Jennifer Lawrence is a young, beautiful and talented woman.  Sadly, she's known best for her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games, which is absolutely dreadful, but thankfully will make her enough money so that she can do passion projects like Silver Book Linings, which I have yet to see, but was dubbed by the writer Bret Easton Ellis as the movie of the year.  What angers me slightly is the thought that maybe this wasn't about Linings at all, but about making up for a snub.  The year the amazing Natalie Portman won for her role in Black Swan instead of Lawrence for Winter's Bone.  Winter's Bone is one of the best movies in the last twenty years and while it received critical acclaim, nobody I know has even seen it. A few who have called it boring.  What makes me laugh, is when I first saw Lawrence at her first Oscars, I didn't know who she was until they posted the name of the movie under her name.  Watching Winter's Bone, I had no idea that a woman as beautiful as her was in the lead.  She brought memories of Theron's Warmus character in Monster.

I won't get into a long speech about the greatness of Daniel Day Lewis, but it should be known that this incredible man has only done five movies in the last fifteen years and has won major awards in four of them, including three best actor nominations.  The Ballad of Jack and Rose was the only one not recognized and in many ways, might be his most beautiful performance.  Also note, that this classy gentleman gave the speech of the night.

While there can only be a few nominees and even fewer winners, it should be noted that there are a few notable omissions.  Jack Black's lead role in the comedy/thriller Bernie was absolutely brilliant and should not be ignored.  He absolutely commanded every scene he was in and carried what could have been a ridiculous, but true story, into a place where I never thought it would go.  Jiro, Dreams of Sushi should have gotten a documentary nod, as it is one of the most beautiful food pieces I've ever seen and the back story is superb.  I was also upset not to see Bully represented, if only to give weight to a serious social crisis.  The performances for Best Actor are always the elite of the elite and while this movie doesn't hold the weight of the others, I would like to see Richard Gere get his due and his performance in Arbitrage was stellar.  

We love the Oscars more for the glitz and glam than for that of the art for which we should be thankful, so for to end this, I'll stoop to the materialistic depths to which society has found acceptable and talk about who looked great.  Nobody in my opinion looked better than Naomi Watts.  Pure elegance and at 44, I must give kudos.  Salma Hayek, Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence were close behind and while people love to hate her, I found Anne Hathaway charming.  For the men, there is an always will be two men on Oscar night.  George Clooney, who can roll out of bed at 90 and still be one of the best looking men on the planet and Hugh Jackman.  Tuxedos have been around for years, but Jackman makes them look like he was born in one. Comfort in a tux is nearly impossible and he moves like he's wearing a sweat suit.

Until Next Year....and a sincere golf clap to the amazing Jennifer Lawrence.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cult Classic - Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

After watching The Raid: Redemption last night, I decided to go retro and dig into my minuscule video collection.  I am a movie enthusiast, but I personally own less than 10 DVDs.  My feeling has always been that to over watch a movie is to desensitize yourself to what made it special in the first place.  I've watched Jaws so many times, that despite it's brilliance, I now only see flaws, where I used to see magic.  A perfect example of a great movie gone bad is the first two Godfather movies.  I now only see the faulty over-acting in some scenes and it overshadows some others.  I mean honestly, is their a worse actor in history than Carlo?  Even Brando's caricature of immigrant Italians is almost laughable.  Still brilliant, but it makes me realize, how much better the story telling is in the Coen brother's Miller's Crossing was. This isn't about big budget films or epics.  This is about a film made for $100,000 and which catapulted a director into a place which allowed him to make the most famous horror film ever made, Halloween.  The film is John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13.

A self proclaimed modern day remake/tribute to Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo and George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Carpenter tells of an attack on a police station about to close on the very night a lot of odd things just happen to be in place.  A replacement lieutenant, a bunch of prisoners being transported who make a pit stop and a man who is there for unknown reasons.  All this as a gang is looking to exact revenge on the police who killed their compadres.

The film is simple and feels real.  It has all the feel of many of the early 1970's exploitation films, but it's a little different, in that where many of those struck a chord with one type of viewer or delved into one stereotype, Carpenter made his an homage to great films of the past.  I told you of the films and directors he was paying homage to, but it doesn't stop there.  The characters, all played by absolute non name actors, each represent so many of our past great players.  There is Bishop, the black lieutenant, who himself might have been set up to fail without the gang attacking the station. He represents so many young black performers who played roles in which they fought adversity and discrimination and did everything to succeed.  There is Wilson, who is set to be put to death, but becomes the inadvertent hero.  His cocky manner and dialogue reminds me greatly of the sly delivery of Robert Mitchum.  Wilson, tells of how a preacher once told him there was something not right about him, something bad.  Mitchum, in Night of the Hunter, plays a character named preacher, who is as dark and sinister, while being charming, much like Wilson.  There is Leigh, the strong yet attractive woman, who is so jaded by men, good and bad, she seems almost to have lost feeling.  Carpenter has said he thinks Laurie Zimmer was perfect in portraying a composite of all of Hawk's women, which was what he desired. Zimmer hated the performance.  Then there is the gang, which much like Romero's Dead films, have no identity, racial or ethnic boundaries.  They are are simply on a mission to destroy everyone within the police station.

The movie is not only good, but it is great, in that the tension never loosens.  It grabs you almost as soon as you hear the first notes in the John Carpenter composed theme.  A theme, I learned which served as the baseline for U2's "New Year's Day" and Afrika Bambaataa's "Bambaataa's Theme."  Acting purists might find fault with the somewhat wooden characters and choppy dialogue, but movie historians will take note that even in some of Hollywood's most revered tales, such as Casablanca, the dialogue, while memorable is pretty silly.  Anyone who has seen Rio Bravo will easily see the similarities, as the formula has been used several times before and several times after.  In my opinion, never as well.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

S**t You Realize At 6AM

You know how when you turn on the hot water it's cold first? I live in the only place where when you turn on the cold water it's hot first.  No really.  Scorching hot.

If you're a cop and you see a car full of guys at the White Castle drive-thru or at 7-11 and it's after are a kind soul.

I do not like sweets very much.  I don't like desserts, I don't love ice cream (will get a coffee shake once in a while), don't love pancakes for breakfast, but if it's 4-5AM and you put any kind of cake or cookie in front of me, it's as good as gone.

Is it me or does it seem like most people buy pets to fill a void in their lives. A lost family member or friend, a break up, want a baby but not ready, can't have a baby, they moved, lost a job, changed jobs, etc.   Nobody ever seems to buy a pet, just because they want to take care of something and have it love them back.  Isn't that supposed to be the reason?

In the few years I've been on Facebook, it seems the people who write personal stuff seeking help to serious stuff, seem to get overly mad when you reply with a direct message and not on their wall. Make me wonder how much it's for attention and how much it's truly being in need.

I don't know if this is a scientific fact, but some say the last person you think of before you sleep is the person you love.  I find it troubling that I have been thinking about the same person the last four nights and I don't know if it's not someone I should, but it's frustrating.

You know how when you're at home or at someone elses house, you're always mortified at how much food they serve and you go home eating way more than you should?  Then why do we get mad when we get normal portions in a restaurant?

It's kind of funny. People that know me know that I don't really sleep, but I wonder how they would feel if they knew what it felt.  So far 25 hours in the last 145 hours.  Don't get me wrong, I'm used to it and it doesn't bother me as much as you think.  I'm almost never tired, but when I am and sometimes it happens at inopportune moments, people quickly forget my sleeping problems.

Why do people drive so fast in the wee hours of the morning? There is no traffic.  Wouldn't leaving 10 minutes earlier knowing this get you there at the same time and a lot safer?

Chinese Take-out is such an odd experience. You stress before calling, because you're not sure what you want, then you end up ordering what you always order and then you anticipate it briefly and then when it arrives you eat so quickly, you barely enjoy it.

I never throw anything out, but I use about 1/10th of the things I own on any kind of regular basis.  People with much more than me seem to use their stuff even less.  Why are we so materialistic?

I have a social observation, that some might find offensive.  I was going to throw it directly onto a Facebook status, but I am not seeking attention, just an an observation.  I wrote on Facebook that I needed a dermatologist.  Within about four hours, I had about six replies, two private messages and two text messages.  I mentioned I had car troubles and I had about three suggestions for other places and two texts twelve hours.  I said I was sick as a dog on Tuesday and as of Saturday morning, I have received, two feel betters on Facebook, not one direct message, not one text and only one phone call.  He's not on Facebook, didn't know how badly I was sick, but called me again the next day before he went to work to ask me if I wanted him to pick me up some food or any necessities before he went in and then a third time yesterday.  In the years since my mother passed, I've truly learned a lot about people and while I don't hold human nature against anyone, I am amazed at how little people act like they say they act.

That last statement wasn't  a woe is me cry, but I laugh when I read all these memes about how "friends are the one's who are there when things are great, great friends are the one's who are there when things are bad."  Putting a picture on Facebook doesn't make you a saint, it makes you a hypocrite.  I just find it funny that some of the same people who are always asking for little favors are never there to say "hey, you need anything, I'm at the store."  Aside from who called me, my brother and my father, the person who stepped up in the past few months and has been a godsend is not the person I expected it to be. I'm going to feel so guilty when I ask them to help me again.  I'm there for them though, no matter what.

Time to try and sleep.  While everyone else starts their day, I hope to get a nice 3 hours.  Hope everyone does something fun today.  A lot of downers lately on Facebook, Twitter and in the World.  Need to be a little happier people!

Quickie Review - The Raid; Redemption

Do you like action movies? I generally do not. I've always been more of the dialogue, mental anguish, troubled protagonist, looking for purpose and answers kind of guy.  That being said, before I turned 30, my favorite movie of all time was Lethal Weapon and even today, my favorite movie is The Killer.  The Raid: Redemption, might be #3 in terms of action movies.  While I can't say it's perfect, because the plot is so painfully simple, it does unravel into something with a few more layers and like most great action movies, leaves way for a definite sequel.  One which I have read is in the works.

Here's the great thing about this movie. You don't know these actors and none of them are big stars, even in their native lands.  The movie is fast paced.  Let me rephrase that.  The movie is so ridiculously fast paced, your heart is never really given a break.  There is arguably the best martial arts fights choreographed in any movie ever made.  That's saying something after seeing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero.  This movie, does not however have the beauty that those possess.  It's dark, it's dingy and there is a lot of violence. This movie was done on a very low budget from what I read and when you see the violence, you have to assume that 90% of it was creating things these guys could have their heads smashed into without dying.  Ironically, the blood level is minimal.

The best part about the movie is that you know because of the first five minutes that you want one guy to live and you know there is someone he is going after with his SWAT team that he knows. That is all you know and then you strap in. I must admit, I wash shocked when it ended to see that it was 101 minutes, because it felt, at most, like it was 75.  You almost feel as if you've had a workout. I'll try and put this in true perspective.  The Dark Knight Rises seems like Downtown Abbey in comparison.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Free Writing - Take 19

Delirious.  Fifteen hours of sleep since Sunday morning and I've been sick since Tuesday Morning....maybe it hit me Monday night, will sipping beers. I do not know. Like I said, delirious.  I have written two blogs tonight. Each took about twenty minutes and I deleted them both.  They were both about food shopping and eating. Nobody cares.  Nobody cares about the silliness when you try and point out little things in life that help, because everyone, myself included knows better.  Those forty wasted minutes talked about my saving money after spending $100 on five meals with a car, I spent $40 and made eight meals over the last three days and I still have ten English Muffins and a cream cheese and a half left.  This is exciting right?  I was thinking about a diet and I mapped it out and I would spend roughly $7 a day on food, maybe even less, if I cut out beef.  Who cares? I'm sick, my head isn't working. I read somewhere once that you should never think about things too hard when you're ill, because it slows your immune system.  Could be true, this is the longest and worst cold I've had in three or four years. I'm miserable  I've seen movies though and written about them.  Good movies.  Great movies actually.  I'm stressing about my car issue, the fear isn't what I will do without one, but how I can get away without paying for this stuff.  It's a long convoluted story that I won't share, but I'm angry  Angry at everyone involved. Angry at the money wasted over this wreck.  Lies. I can't take lies.  I am a lot of things.  A lot of negative things, but I am honest to a fault.  I can't shake this fucking honesty thing. I see so many happy people, cheating, stealing, lying and it breaks my heart and they all sit back and laugh at me.  Sitting with their husband or wives one night, their boyfriends or girlfriends the other, taking money from another, promising one thing and delivering another and then the lies. I can't take dishonesty.  It scorches my soul.  Ha.  Like I even have one.  The rest of the world has a soul, I have a conscience.  I might be brash, rude and sometimes downright mean, but I'm honest.  It's not always about me, but it's not always about those I always make it about.  One day, I want to feel free of these bonds.  I want to be able to look someone in the eye and tell them the biggest lie in the world.  It must be invigorating.  I mean how many people do this and live happy lives?  I stress about me and about others and then when they lie to me, they break my heart.  And I let them do it over and over and over.  If I could just muster the lies...I'd be no better than them and I strive to be. Even if I die and that's the only thing I have to show for.  Sad. Isn't it?

Quickie Review - Tyrannosaur

I recently was turned onto a movie starring Paddy Considine called In America.  The movie turned out to be terrific and I noticed when checking Netflix that he had his directorial debut featured.  I knew nothing about it, but decided to throw it on top of me queue.  The movie is called Tyrannosaur and stars familiar face Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Boy A) and Olivia Colman as Joseph and Hanna.  Joseph is an angry middle aged drunk who spends his days sipping pints and basically being angry.  Hanna is well to do, but works in a second hand clothing store, praying for others and taking sips when nobody is looking.

I will warn anyone interested, the movie starts off with drunken Joseph, kicking his dog, then carrying him home only to bury him the next morning.  We immediately realize that this man lives a very troubled life.  Throughout the film, his inability to harness his anger takes its toll on everyone around him, but in reality, it's only he is who is getting beaten.  Life had beaten him and taken every ounce of happiness out of him.  One day, in a fit of rage, he beats some kids and "hides" in the thrift shop.  Hanna, prays for him and he returns the next day.  His inability to see any good in the world and her desperation to find good is basis for the entire film.

As the movie goes on, we find out things about both of them and realize they are scarred forever.  When Joseph sees Hanna with bruises on her face, he feels this need to fight the demons she's facing, but can't muster the energy, because he's consumed with fighting his own. Hanna's husband is a horrible person and we soon realize that Joseph can't handle it anymore.  He takes Hanna in, but this is where the entire film changes.  I will not spoil it, because it's like nothing you'd ever suspect.

Tyrannosaur is powerful, gritty and every other cliche word to describe something that is so dark and volatile, we wince while watching what is before us.  Do not get me wrong, this is not a low budget, violent drama, but an exquisitely acted exploration into two shattered lives.  It hurts to watch some scenes and that pain carries throughout.  Joseph, by his own admission, is a bad person.  Hanna, is desperately trying to be a good person, a person of God.  Their struggles are so real, so true, that we feel empathy for them, even when Joseph is killing a second dog.  There are reasons for everything that happens within this film.  There are no wasted scenes or dialogue to fill a time frame.  The only way to describe this movie accurately is to paraphrase a line by Joseph in the movie, when he says, "life is like a tsunami, it starts with a little wave and builds and there is nothing you can do to stop it."  If you ask me, it's a lot truer than life being like a box of chocolates.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Satirical Take On My Own Facebook Debating

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Joe's Status: I don't know how anyone can really like the taste of vanilla ice cream over chocolate.
Joe: Chocolate is like the best thing in the world.
Meghan: I know right, people are stupid. (Joe Like's This)
Joe: Joe Posts video of a chocolate shake being made. (Meghan Likes This)
Meghan: Nice (Joe Likes This)
Me: I personally don't like chocolate and prefer vanilla, because it isn't so sweet.
Joe: Always have to be opposite. (Meghan Likes This)
Meghan: There goes Me being different just to be different (Joe likes this).
Me: What, I am just saying it's not always black or should I say brown and white.
Joe: Nobody who likes ice cream likes vanilla more.
Me: Nobody?  I do and know about 200 people who don't like chocolate more.
Joe: Joe posts random statistic about people chocolate being the world's favorite flavor without any data.
Me: You got that from a website called
Joe: You just hate being wrong, so now you've have to criticize.
Bob: Copies 400 pages of data with almost nothing pertaining to ice cream. (Joe & Meghan Like this)
Me: What the hell do jellybean flavors have to do with our topic?
Bob: Copies another 400 pages, followed by, run away like a scared little boy.
Me: WTF? You're not even talking about the same subject. All I said was I and others like vanilla more.
Bob: 400 pages more and Chocolate was one of the oldest flavors.
Joe: Good one Bob!
Me: You guys are insane. What does this have to do with ice cream?
Joe: See Bob, when he's wrong, he changes the subject and gets mad.
Bob; 200 pages more and Every time, can't debate without crying.
Me: OK, Bob, simple question, what is your favorite flavor?
Bob: 1200 pages more and "ice cream was invented in Iceland." You just don't like travel.
Joe: Tell him Bob, he is clueless about ice cream.
Me: OK, Bob you didn't answer the question and ice cream was invented in China, but whatever who cares.
Bob: 200 more pages and Who cares, so history doesn't matter to you, because you are simple minded.
Me: How am I simple minded, but you are wrong and still haven't professed your desire to choose a flavor?
Joe: See Bob, he is on the ropes and is changing the subject.
Me: Joe!!! It was your freaking subject and I'm still talking about it.
Joe: So answer the question.
Me: What question?  I'm the one that asked the question!
Bob: You hate ice cream, that is why you don't know that chocolate is better.
Me: It's a personal preference not a fact.  Ice Cream made in China is a fact.
Bob: 150 more pages and So now we're back to where it's made, because you keep changing the subject and running away like a  scared child. (Meghan Likes This).
Meghan: Didn't I see you eating a Kit Kat the other day?
Me: WTF does that have to do with anything? (Julie likes this)
Meghan: Didn't get the Vanilla Kit Kat, did you?
Joe: You tell em Meghan (Meghan Likes this)
Me: You people are insane. They don't make vanilla Kit Kat bars
Bob: Changing the subject again ME, why are we talking candy bars now, running away as always.
Julie: Are you guys morons?  He said he likes Vanilla, but maybe he likes chocolate bars.
Joe: You guys just don't understand chocolate ice cream, that's why you like Vanilla, I feel bad for you.
Julie: Good grief
Me: I detailed my reasons for why I prefer it.
Julie: I like it because when you add toppings, you can taste them more distinctly. (Me likes this)
Joe: Oh so now we're talking about toppings. You two always changing the subject.
Julie: How do you do this Me?
Joe: Oh so now it's us being awful.
Joe: posts video of a chocolate shake being made, then a fondue pot, then an Easter bunny
Alice: Joe, sometimes people just don't have taste buds to appreciate the finer things in life. (Joe Likes this)
Me: What is wrong with you people? it's personal preference not cut and dry.
Alice: I feel badly for those who are ignorant..sad lives they'll lead without choclit
Joe; You said it Alice
Bob: Posts 400,000 pages of articles on Tibetan monks catching on fire and They probably like Vanilla (Joe, Meghan Alice all like this)
Me: You people should be in homes.
Joe:  Just got your private message Alice, you're right, some people don't understand ice cream. Depressed and lonely people who don't have chocolate in their lives.
Steve: Alice, you love chocolate, but can't spell it.
Bob: Breaks world record for random post not pertaining to subject matter.
Me: I give up Steve, I'm going to go google Vanilla Donkey Punch and see what comes up.
Steve: And the winner of this debate, goes to ME

Why Your Teenager Will Probably Be A Jerk!

Well, everyone one I know who has a kid and knows I don't just skipped over this and called me a name to themselves, but if you're reading just hear me out.  I realize when I was a kid, I was looking at it from an adolescents perspective, but the reality was, I wasn't like many kids.  My parents made me an integral part of their dinner parties and allowed me to be a sponge, soaking up any knowledge, wisdom or life lessons that maybe they had forgot to pass down.  Also, my parents friends liked me.

Let's start off with the basics.  Respect. You can teach your kid to be respectful, but that half-hearted, limp-dicked handshake your son just gave me tells me, you failed in that area.  You know why kids are jerks to adults?  They can be.  When I was a teen, I didn't have a cell phone, so that meant if I called a friend or girlfriend, I most likely was going to have to speak to their parents first. This was practice in how to be respectful.  A lesson which pays off down the road that is lost on today's youth.  Second, family functions were mandatory.  I'm not talking about my family, I'm talking about friend's families.  People were much more tight knit in the days before cell towers and Internet.  If my buddy had family over, I was invited. So now I had to make a good impression on those kids.  I wasn't sitting in someones living room with a tilted starter cap, trying to look like some rapper I'd be terrified to meet in person, I was me.  This is huge later in life and I feel sorry for the kids that don't have to grow up this way.

School.  Individuality is a thing of the past.  I drive by a school today and see 47 Juicy sweat pant wearing girls and 400 North Face jackets.  Hello Dolly the cloned goat!  I love seeing the kid with the purple hair these days, because those were the kids who are interesting.  They aren't trying to sound like Big Ang or The Situation, they are trying to climb up on the roof and be heard, even if they are shy and reserved.  Also, when I was in school it was actually hard.  Not as hard as my parents schooling, but hard.  The crap that is given today is plain sad.  The entire high school experience is catered towards the taking of the SAT, whereas in my day, we went at it about 5-6 weeks.  Now what the difference in scores are (not including the new writing part)?  About 14 points.  That's probably 2-3 more questions correct after three years of practicing.  More kids are going to school, but that is more due to the economy and that we weren't always pushed in that direction.  Ironically, less kids are graduating high school, so is it working?  So your kid isn't getting a proper education and education is an important tool.  Educated people tend to be a lot less obnoxious than those who love to yell, scream and bully.

Work. Kids in my day worked 5-6 days a week. May times as many as 30 hours a week.  I worked in a movie theater and that was a slow week.  Kids today average about 18 hours, if they have a job at all. Less kids work, drive and participate in things than in my day.  That's hard to believe because we had so few options.  Hard work, even easy work, builds character and there is also the social aspect.  Working in a pharmacy and movie theater put me in front of people constantly.  Do you know how important public speaking is?  Immensely important, because a job interview is essentially a test of how well you can relay your thoughts to others publicly.  This is lost on today's lazy, video game and Internet addicted youth.

Inherited situations.  I had everything a kid could want growing up. Clothes, food, shelter, and entertainment.  Today, kids take that for granted and if they don't have an X Box, a iPhone and their own laptop, they feel like their parents have failed them.  I remember buying my first desktop.  $1150 of my hard earned money in one shot. I remember buying every article of clothing I owned, every game system, everything.  Hell I even split the cost of a brand new car with my parents and gave them a small amount of rent.  Kids today do that, but most don't.  It taught me to be self sufficient.  I've had bumps along the way and Mom & Dad definitely helped whenever they could, so I'm not complaining.  Today, when I see what the average 10 year old gets for Christmas or Hanukkah I'm appalled.  What lessons have they learned other than "we love you and are willing to go into financial ruin to show it to you, because we're not sure how to talk to you, because we don't have dinner together, because I need to watch Jeopardy and your father is bowling."  Sorry, but these circumstances didn't arise in the 80's.  Not all, but the families I knew for the most part ate together and those that did were close and the kids all turned out right.

So what are the things today that make me believe that kids are or may become jerks?  When I see a father take his kid out to a restaurant and he allows him to leave his hat on while dining or even worse, he himself is wearing a hat.  That to me is breeding a disrespectful person. If I had people over to my house and their kid walked in and left his hat on, I'd knock it off his head.  Sorry, that's no class.  How about kids getting $40-50 for every tooth they lose these days?  I got $2. Maybe $5 once.  I learned the value of that dollar and how to save if I wanted something.  What about cursing?  I cursed like a truck driver as a kid and my parents allowed me a lot of leeway at home, but god forbid I should curse in front of company, I'd be a dead man.  Punishments?  Do kids even get punished anymore?  "Honey, no using the car tomorrow isn't a punishment.  Taking away a luxury should never be. How about when I was younger.  Two weeks of no playing outside.  Think I learned my lesson? Damn straight.  Think the kid who got picked up by his friend did?  Chances are a resounding no.

Now, before people think I've crossed everyone off my list.  There are tons of teens who have been granted some luxuries and turned out fine.  I have friends who haven't pushed their kids in school, have allowed to much free time, not forced them to work and just general silliness like staying out way too late for their age or to allow behaviors probably not suitable for their age, but there is always that difference.  They make up for is by enforcing other stricter policies, they talk to their kids and allow other to talk to them about dangers and things ramifications.  Those kids are usually the ones who might worry telling their parents, but will come to a friend of the family.  Those are the ones who won't get in the car with the drunk driver and use that cell phone they've been given under the guise of it being an emergency tool.  Those kids will be fine, but they are not the norm sadly.  I love kids and have worked with ages 5-17 over the last 20+ years.  I want them to succeed and I love when they do. Almost every success story started out with a kid who was a little different than the pack, tried a little harder, was made to work a little harder and who was taught to appreciate what they have, no matter how little. And please do not misunderstand, I do not mean financial success, but success as a human being.  They may have all those things I just stated, but if they've never understood how to respect others, it's all for naught and teaching it, ones own personal way, doesn't always mean it is learned.  It all starts at home and I have said this about many kids sadly over my years.  "You know what, that kid is a real jerk, but you know what, I know where it comes from."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The A to Z's: Pissed Off Edition

Automobiles: Haven't had one in two years and now I do.  Stress and money is all they are.
Boehner, John:  One of the most evil and divisive human beings in American Politics.
Catastrophes: The world is going to hell in a hand basket and we need to figure out why.
Dogs that bark incessantly: I have a neighbor who has an awesome dog.  I have another whose sucks!
Envelopes: I have junk mail fucking everywhere.  On the floor, the table, the bed.  Stop killing trees!
Free Speech: Just kidding, but the shit coming out of the likes of Rush Limbaugh is slander.
Gluten Free:  Does anyone over 30 know one person growing up who had these allergies?
Ham:  I don't hate ham, but I had my fill at Christmas.  Done with ham til next Christmas.
Idiots:  We used to live in the smartest country in the world. Now we have Mob Wives and Pawn Stars.
Jersey: I feel bad for them with Hurricane Sandy, but do you hear NY bitching as much?
Killings: I know they say it can't possibly be the guns, but all these killings via guns really makes me wonder.
Lovebirds: OK, I don't hate you, I'm jealous.  Missing having someone to love and then to argue with.
Mundanity: You have a job, you drove to it, you hated your day, you went home, you ate dinner. Thanks!
Nicki Minaj: That's all I got.
Old Age: See below
Pain: I've lived with pain in my knees for years, but the pain in my hip, legs and back is crippling at times.
Queue: As in Netflix...250+ movies and I wish I could just rent a cabin for a month and watch every one.
Racism: Not overt racism, because you're a jerk, but your honest. Secret racism, because it scares me.
Societal Norms:  Why is bad behavior, ignorance, rudeness, racism, sexism and hate so widely accepted?
Television: Haven't watched TV other than sports and movies in six months. Happier life.
Underachieving: OK, to this is a personal issue I'm working on.  Not very well I might add. Least I'm honest.
Viral Videos:  Sure I'll post a video once in a while, but friends, you don't have to post everything you see.
Worrying about something that is inevitable and bad: No description needed
X: Can't think of anything with an X, so I'll just say the Pope.  A genuinely bad man.
Youth: They feel entitled despite being much dumber than when we were that age and so much more naive.
Zits: I have rosacea and my face looks like a pizza. Apparently, drinking and spicy foods can cause it. FML!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quickie Review - Juan of the Dead

Zombie films have really taken off lately.  So much so that The Walking Dead has made it big as a television serious.  The reality is, zombie films, while fun, are rarely actually very good movies.  You have the classics by George Romero and then you have everything else.  Until recently.  Film makers, somehow realized there could be humor inserted into them and it would make them better.  Or at the very least, change the pace.  Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead turned the same old tale into something quite entertaining, even if the scares really aren't there.  Dead Snow, while not a great movie, took it to a whole other level.  It made the zombies organized and fast.  Oh and did I mention they were Nazis?  Yeah, it's one you have to see to believe.

So now we come to Juan of the Dead.  The film was billed as the first Cuban horror film and is directed by Alejandro Brugues.  The protagonist, Juan, played by Alexis Diaz de Villegas, is a slacker in every sense of the word.  He has hopes to strike it rich, but never really knows how.  His buddy Lazaro, played by Jorge Molina try and catch fish and spend a lot of time drinking and dreaming.  Soon we realize that something is wrong, but even our two heroes don't seem to realize what is going on.  The television is telling of dissidents causing an uprising, ignoring the facts that the people are dead and eating each other. Juan then goes to get his estranged daughter, the lovely Andrea Duro, who had moved to Spain to live with her mother. We find out that Juan has always fallen short in his responsibilities and seems to be doing it again.  His love for his daughter and his friends bring them all together, with a few others, including Lazaro's son.

So what makes Juan of the Dead so wonderful?  It's because of how many movies it is in one.  Juan is a caring man, who helps his neighbors, although he is also having an affair with one.  He is a trusted friend and a loving, but not exactly devoted father.  What is amazing is that in 94 minutes, the movie goes from a buddy story to a parenting movie to a survival story to a redemption story.  There are countless encounters with the zombies and some are bloody, some are gruesome, some are truly epic and some are downright hilarious.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one scene.  Juan has been handcuffed to a transvestite named La China who has been bitten.  As La China changes, Juan must do everything in his power to keep him away.  What ensues, with background music in sync, is a tango sequence that is quite possibly the best dance scene in a move since Singing in the Rain.  I can't remember watching a movie by myself and laughing harder than at this scene.  

Maybe because it's so fresh in my mind or maybe it was just what I needed, but the movie has everything.  It has action, tension, pretty girls, relationships and zombies, but it also has four characters you truly care about and you are wishing good things for.  There is a not so subliminal political message and there are other messages hidden within, but what makes it work is the characters actually having character.  When we are introduced to them, this is not at all apparent.  Some may think I'm overstating how good this movie is, but in many ways it reminded me Joon-ho Bong's The Host, in that the monsters are actually a bit of a metaphor for a bigger story.  Love and redemption.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Valentine's Day Menu - Turning Tapas into Tap-Ass

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

History has taught me three important things about this Hallmark Holiday. These things are crucial to having a successful and enjoyable day.  By following these three things, you should ensure some reciprocal love or at very least, if nature gets in the way, some serious I.O.U. action.

First off, flowers are nice, but trust me, unless you're having them delivered to her workplace, so that her incredibly jealous friends and coworkers can act like children who have just opened a pinata, they are not essential.  Flowers are nice, but they are a waste of money and they die quickly.  Unless it's about presentation, flowers on Valentine's Day are only for those of us who are less confident.  Get her flowers the following week or two later, when nobody is expecting and you've doubled your awesomeness.  Trust me on this one.  Instead, spend that money on tickets to something or casual dinner out this weekend.  Maybe Sunday night, when you're both tired and just want to eat and crash before the coming week.  Or take her to the movies Saturday afternoon.

Be thoughtful, but frugal with the gifts.  Especially if you've just spent a wad on Christmas or she has a birthday coming up.  If you set the bar too high, you're going to regret it later.  You can also add this newly found pocket change into a future gift.  Maybe a weekend away, for example.  If you're new to the game, this is essential, but if this is the first Valentine's Day and you happened to meet after Christmas, you might want to go balls out.  Especially if you haven't closed on the deal.  Ladies, I'm not being vulgar, but if you're that rare bread that has waited, you know this day is nothing more than a contract. Sorry to be blunt, but it's the truth.

Finally, the most important of all steps.  Stay out of restaurants unless they are the kind with a Maitre D and take reservations months in advance.  This is the most important step.  If you want to sit crammed together with other amateurs, eating a prix fix meal with a choice of two apps and three entrees, be my guest.  See how much she cares in an hour.  Here's my suggestion. If at all possible cook for her.  It's economical, it's more enjoyable and after dessert, you might just get your just desserts.  So you don't do a lot of cooking. This is not a worry.  Trust me.  This one will save you time and you'll be a rock star.

If she's a seafood lover, it's essential you start with oysters. Aside from being an aphrodisiac, they are delicious and the act of slurping them down together, will let both of you know, you're comfortable enough to  make odd noises together.  I can't stress the importance of this.  If she's not a fan of these mollusks, skip and go right to the rest of the menu and remember, this is a celebration of your feelings, so do it right You don't want to feel like Peter Griffin after a night with Quagmire and Joe at the Krazy Klam.  Keep it light, you've got business to attend to later if this works.

1st course:  Half a ripe avocado, filled with a dollop of sour cream and some salmon caviar.  This is luxurious and tasty, melding the buttery texture of the avocado,with the slight tartness of the cream and the saltiness of the caviar.  Open a bottle of prosecco for this and the next dish.

2nd course: Gazpacho shooters (try and find 3oz shot glasses) with a lone jumbo shrimp cocktail.  The wonderfully cold tomato based soup can be adjusted for spice levels and acts as a sauce for the ice cold shrimp.

3rd course:  Any flavor of sweet sorbet. Two tablespoons and whatever you've frozen is all you need.  Garnish with a mint or basil leaf.

OK, so you're down one bottle of prosecco, you've put together three or four impressive courses and you haven't actually had to cook anything yet.  All these items have been made slightly ahead of time and only need assembly.

Entree:  You have two choices here: Filet Mignon (depending on your girl's tastes) with a pesto, horseradish cream or gorgonzola sauce.  My choice would be the pesto.  It can be made in a coffee grinder for God's sake.  Serve with some blanched string beans covered with a garlic, butter and peppercorn sauce and roasted garlic potatoes.  If your girl is not a true carnivore or you want to go a little lighter, may I suggest a stuffed filet of sole with lump crab meat in a beurre blanc or light francese sauce with capers. Swap out the roasted potatoes for a light buttery mashed or whipped potatoes and the beans for some thin asparagus. Also, don't read too much into the garlic, the pesto, the asparagus, they are all aphrodisiacs as well.

If going with the Filet, choose a nice Cabernet Sauvignon  The wine pairs perfectly with the beef, but is also strong enough to stand up to the garlicky greatness of the pesto. Good, affordable Cabs are available everywhere, so you don't have to break the bank.  If going with the fish, I suggest, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. About $35 a bottle, but as you'll see, well worth it.

Dessert:  Don't rush into dessert.  Retire to the couch for a while.  Cuddle and plan to watch something such as Crazy, Stupid, Love or some other not too intense Rom-Com.  A bowl of some fresh berries topped with whipped cream, some chocolate covered strawberries and depending on what you're relationship is, you can go with another bottle of prosecco, a sweet German Reisling or go with the old stand by, champagne.

Sounds like a lot of work, but you're technically only cooking one meal and the sides don't take much effort at all. It will make you look like you spent hours in the kitchen, when in actuality, you could probably put this baby together in an hour and a half total.

Let me also end this Valentine's Day menu with two incredibly bold statements.  One, this is a slam dunk in the ending the night in the throws of passion menu and two, I'm single, so what the hell do I know?

When Pain Becomes Agony

Since I was young, I've had what could be considered a high pain threshold.  In my younger years, I broke fingers and toes with such frequency that I soon went without doctor's visits and silly splints.  By the age of about 30, I had broken each finger twice and each toe at least once.  I remember one day in sixth or seventh grade, I was walking with my school backpack strap on my hand and someone bumped into me. I hit the wall going around the corner and felt a little pinch.  I looked down to see my finger pointed in the other direction.  I slowly grasped the finger, yanked it and Voila! Healed!  That was always the way. I boxed in my friend's house and we beat the shit out of each other and we even played tackle football in the snow on a concrete basketball court a few times, sans equipment.  I've been hit by a car while riding my bike, hit with a baseball in the head and got a black eye or two from guys who weren't thrilled by my actions.  Never once did I feel pain.

Sometime around '98 or '99, while playing basketball at Manhattan College, there was a loud bang.  A few people standing near me, literally hit the floor.  I didn't.  I probably should have.  I continued playing and my knee soon looked like someone had replaced my kneecap with a large water balloon.  I won't get into the bullshit that the school pulled, but let's just say, it was serious.  I played and worked through the pain and despite it hampering my abilities to move properly, I managed to still maintain a pretty decent level of play and mobility.  Then I tore my other knee.  Compensation was to blame.  That summer, I did a lot of walking and the pain became severe.  I could no longer really play sports for with any prowess or stamina and my weight rose.  I did manage to muster a few more years of softball and some light basketball, but my days of actually running were done.  I needed surgery.  That was over ten years ago.

The last few months I've been experiencing something I'm not used to.  You'd never know it to look at me on most days, but on most occasions, if you see me walking, I'm holding back tears.  My knees are so destroyed that it's affecting other areas.  My hip, which started bothering me after a five hour bus ride a few month's back, has now exceeded the pain in my knees. The past few weeks, there have been times, the pain is so bad, I can't move.  I fight it and usually can manage, but there are instances of agony I'm just not accustomed to.

In 1996, I was carrying shingles and slate and 150 lb rolls of roofing materials up 44 foot ladders all day.  I took a weight training class and could max out the squat machine with ease.  Even after I tore my first ACL, I could max leg press the school gym's machine with one leg, the bad one.  Today, I had a hard time managing four stairs with a 40 lb bag of laundry.  Two weeks ago, I slept wrong and the pain was so bad, I almost had to crawl to use the bathroom.  I don't know how much longer I can take this kind of pain, but it's affecting everything in my life.  It's affected my happiness, my ability to do jobs that require manual labor, at times it's somewhat embarrassing, because someone my age, should not be walking like a 90-year old and it's even affected more intimate aspects of my life.  It sucks. I've gone most of my life not knowing what real pain is, but now I know.  In the past ten years, I've experienced gall bladder attacks, diverticulitis and the chronic knee problems, but nothing has been like this hip issue or should I say, the combination of the hip and the knees.  I can only stand for about an hour at a time and my afternoon classes with the kids on some occasions leave me in so much pain, I have trouble getting in and out of my car.

When I can afford it and not to be political, but if ObamaCare is hat it promises to be, I'll be getting this checked sooner than later, but for any of you who deal with chronic pain, I may have thought in the past it was an exaggeration, but trust me now, when I tell you. I feel your pain!

Quickie Review - The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door is a B-movie, horror film, based on the Sylvia Likens torture and murder case many years ago in Indiana.  It's known to some as the worst case of child abuse ever.  Likens was 16 when she died.  The movie is told through the eyes of a young neighbor who had a boyhood crush on the young girl and who was her only friend, other than her sister throughout the movie.  Despite their friendship, he basically did nothing to help her and was witness to all of the brutality.

The movies is exploitative in nature and is incredibly difficult to watch. The young girl is tortured in ways that are unimaginable and is tortured by so many people, it's hard to believe this happened.  The portrayal of the mother, Ruth (who is played by the actress who played Molly Ringwald's sister in 16 Candles) who facilitates the horrors against the poor girl, is probably the most troubling.  Her boys, who she treats like buddies and the neighborhood kids all join in.

If there is socially redeeming quality of the movie, it's to portray the invulnerability and naivety of children.  To read the actual accounts of the torture and subsequent murder is even more harrowing.  Jack Ketchum, who wrote the novel, seems to have a penchant for these tales and that's not to say there might not be something wrong with him. I would not recommend this to anyone who is not capable of handling the mental side effects of such a film.  It's not a good movie, but a powerful one in that it shows, like in the Kitty Genovese case, there is a part of all of us, that will always sit and wait for others to act, despite knowing we can help.  Scary commentary on society and how we behave and the excuses we make for our lack of action.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Church & State and Bias (or is it).

A few nights ago, I got into a political and religious discussion.  I immediately was told "here we go again."  So the seven hours I previously spent talking about pitchers and catchers reporting, the snow storm, the commercials during the Super Bowl and the people waiting to see Justin Bieber is conversation worthy, but arguing the problems with our living under this false pretense of a division of church and state isn't worthy?  Opinions are like assholes, I'm told so often, but the thing is, what if the people you are arguing with are using opinions and you are using empirical data, actual quotes and complex factual arguments to state your case?  I find it's during these times, that I am called names, get the eye roll or am ignored or my favorite, called biased.

Biased, by definition, means to show prejudice for or against something unfairly.  The key word is unfairly.  A friend of mine constantly calls the New York Times liberally biased, yet in nearly six months of arguing politics and religions, has never once been able to intelligently or accurately refute anything I've quoted from them.  Thus, in these instances, the Times is not actually biased, but factual.  This is something, this one individual has had a hard time with and the reason why his arguments usually lead to a change of topic or he runs off to spout his rhetoric somewhere else.

This weekend, I was the observant of two younger guys arguing politics, religion and there connections to each other.  One person was trying to use force of language and conviction to prove a point, whereas the other was using more concrete arguments.  The irony of the argument was they were both on the same side, agreeing that Christianity plays a much to large role in our laws and our interpretations of laws. The louder of the two denounced religion, but seemed to have anger towards religion, but not in terms of government using it as a base.  The other, denounced religion, but spoke of the good things in religion, not as a base, but as simple humanity.  Saying that these things, need not be taught, because they are inherent, whereas hate and bad behavior is taught.

I saw quietly, listening and watching, as their body languages changed.  The louder, stood up leaned in and argued his case, trying to use his larger frame and more boisterous voice to push his view.  The quieter and more convincing of the too, used humor and sarcasm, while occasionally agreeing with his more aggressive counterpart.  When asked my opinion, I noted that one them understood religion more thoroughly and understood human nature more, while the other held deeper convictions, not all of which were unwarranted or correct.  I picked things about both arguments that I agreed and disagreed with and told them, they both had completely justified arguments, but that where there was no grey areas, this couldn't be about opinion.  I have strong views about people using the term opinion, when it is indeed a fact.

The synopsis of the argument was that one was arguing religion as the root of all evil, with a lack of understanding of many religions and the other's was land control was.  I explained that the single greatest owner of land on the planet, that is not connected to a monarchy is the Catholic Church.  How it obtained all this land isn't up for discussion and much of their control was brought on by tyranny, so in this sense, they are both correct.  Where one was wrong and the other was right was the idea that our laws are all comprised from religious doctrine, when in fact, quotes from many of the founding father's felt that religion needed to be very separate from government, so as not to fall back into the same things they were fighting to begin with.  This is where history is great, but largely misunderstood.  All religions preach kindness and shun abhorrent acts, but that is because they are all forms of simple laws meant to control the less educated masses.  Doing good to others is not something we necessarily need to be taught, but is innate, so to argue that religion is the basis for all laws is baseless.  The argument was much more complex and we all agreed that religion should have no place in today's government as it, not the lack thereof, is what is tearing at not only our moral fiber, but that of the entire world.  To cast off all other places in the world as "terrorist nations" when we can't control killings on a daily basis in our own country is irresponsible.

The conversation ended with the clinking of glasses and acceptance that our arguments were basically on the same page, with different angles and a group effort to educate ourselves more on each part of the argument we might have been lacking information on.  As the one person whom I had met before (our conversations were usually limited to talk of fine dining), got up to leave, he leaned in and said "I just want to let you know how refreshing it is to speak to someone as intelligent as you, in a world where intelligence is fleeting."  I thanked him, but little did he know how much it meant.  Two people, within three days previous had called me names, demeaning my intelligence, because their opinions clashed with my facts and I was too tired to argue when it didn't matter how much proof I could lay in front of them.  I tried to define bias to them, but it was I who was biased, by disagreeing with what the attractive newscaster had told them earlier in the evening.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Last Supper (aka Death Row Meal) - Week Addition

We've all played the game.  Great chefs around the world even do it.  It's called many things, but most often, it's called the "Death Row" game.  Your life is about to be taken.  You have one last request granted.  The final meal.  I've always said, mine would the most simple thing.  Lamb chops.  Plain and simple. What if this wish was granted for a week?  What if you could design a 21 course send off?  What would you select?  I'm definitely going to forget some items and this may change one day, but right now, if given the opportunity, what would I select?  I'm only giving my self one stipulation.  I can not select the same thing twice, although the same ingredients may be repeated but not identically.  I will choose a breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I'm not a dessert person, but for this, I'll add a dessert course.  I should also add that not everything is going to be some glamorous meal.  Sometimes, it's something as simple as a grilled cheese that brings back memories of our childhood that makes out senses tingle.

Breakfast: English Muffin w/cream cheese, sliced avocado & tomato. Coffee.
Lunch: Chorizo Burrito from Burrito Poblano with salsa roja, salsa verde and sour cream with a bottle of Jarritos lime/lemon soda.  Chips and Salsa.
Dinner: Orange, soy & honey marinated Swordfish over orzo with snap peas. Cloudy Bay Sauvingnon Blanc.
Dessert: Lemon Sorbet and a glass of prosecco.


Breakfast: Breakfast burrito of fried eggs, bacon, cheddar, salsa & green onions. Coffee.
Lunch: Bowl of chili, with cheddar and chopped raw onion, crackers, Marie Sharp's Habanero sauce and cold pint of Dogfish Head Imperial 90 Minute IPA
Dinner: Roasted whole duck, roasted red potatoes, green beans in butter and garlic. Wish I remembered the Vineyard, but a delicious Amarone would be nice.
Dessert: Fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with a dollop of creme fraiche and a glass of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque..


Breakfast:  Banana pancakes with hot maple syrup and clementine wedges on side. Coffee.
Lunch: Chef's Salad w/Ranch dressing with a glass of minty iced tea.
Dinner: The Porterhouse @ Peter Luger. Thick cut bacon, onion and tomato salad with Luger sauce, creamed spinach, hash browned potatoes. The wine doesn't matter, you're there for the porterhouse.
Dessert: If I'm at Luger's, their hot fudge sundae with extra schlag. Bailey's on the rocks.


Breakfast: Three egg omelet with feta and fresh herbs. Croissant with butter.  Coffee.
Lunch: Bleu Cheese bacon burger at Piper's Kilt with potato salad. Pint of Guinness.
Dinner: Sauerbraten (Ideally my mother's), red cabbage slaw and boiled potatoes served with a cold Affentaler Riesling.
Dessert: Our family friend's (who is part owner of Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca) lemon tart.  Espresso.


Breakfast: Traditional Irish breakfast - two fried eggs, bacon rashers, Cumberland sausage, fried tomato, beans, black and white pudding, potatoes and brown bread. Strongest coffee you can find.
Lunch: BLT with mayo and coffee milkshake (Funny, I don't even like ice cream and it's second time).
Dinner: Hummus, baba ganoush, olives, feta to start.  Moussaka with a bottle of Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dessert: Proscuitto wrapped figs, stuffed with gorgonzola with Cockburn port.


Breakfast: Corned beef hash, bacon, two fried eggs with whole wheat toast at any good Greek diner. Coffee.
Lunch: Grilled cheese with tomato and bacon.  Bowl of ice cold gazpacho. Absolut Mandarin and club.
Dinner: Paella served with many bottles of Alamos Malbec.
Dessert: My brother's pecan pie.

And now, we've gotten to the final day.  What will I want for my final day?  Over the top? Old standards?

Breakfast: Sesame bagel from Scarsdale Bagels, cream cheese, Nova Scotia lox, thick slice of beefsteak tomato, thin slice of raw onion.  One hard boiled egg, bacon, grapefruit juice and coffee.

Lunch: Shepherd's Pie (authentic, with lamb not beef) and a pint of Bass Ale with a shot of McCallen's 18.
Dinner: Escargot for starters, then pan grilled lamb chops seasoned with nothing more than salt, pepper and rosemary. Mashed potatoes, string beans and some cooked garlicky spinach. Once again, I'll trust Dad with the wine.
Dessert: My mother's cheesecake. The best in the world.  To this day, nobody that has ever had it knows what the hell she did to it, but nothing compared.  It was by far my favorite dessert and since she died, I have not really eaten any desserts and the few times I've had cheesecake it just doesn't do it for me. A strong French/Mexican roast blend of Sahadi's coffee.

I'm sure other things will pop into my head. Throughout these days, I'd have to find time for a cheese plate of Welsh Cheddar, French Chevre and Camembert and an English Stilton.  I'd have to find some time for a bag of Doritos  Hell, I haven't had a gyro yet.  No pizza from Louie & Ernie's or Lincoln Lounge.  Where is a simple peanut butter sandwich? Fried chicken or wings?  A traditional Brooklyn egg cream has to be in there right?  I make a Philly cheese steak almost every week, but not on here. No sushi or sashimi?  A final week without uni?  Come on?  What was I thinking trying to limit this to one week.  I should have done a month.

But honestly, life could end after this week.  No problem.

Quickie Review - Deadfall

I will start off by saying this.  If you are a woman, you'll be happy to know that Eric Bana and Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam are this.  If you are a man, may I introduce Olivia Wilde and Kate Mara.  If you're a fan of the older generation, please enjoy Treat Williams, Kris Kristofferson and the incredible Sissy Spacek.  Thankfully there is more than just eye candy to this movie.  There is a pretty decent, even if it is a tad recycled, story about redemption.  The movie isn't going to knock your socks off, but it will keep you engrossed from beginning to end.

I don't like giving away parts of the story, so I'll keep my discussion to the characters and those who play them.  There are basically four sub-stories that come together to form one.  There are the outlaws who share an odd bond.  There is the family that was torn apart for reasons we're not sure about.  There is the cop trying to get her father's approval.  Finally there is the young man who falls for the wrong woman, who falls for the right guy at the wrong time.  Confused?  It's really not that confusing when viewed.

Why does this movie work?  Acting.  The acting is actually near flawless.  The script, at times pale, with the exception of Bana's character.  Bana plays a bad man, almost like Mitchum's Preacher in Night of the Hunter.  He's charismatic, but pure evil.  Then there is Hunnam, who plays Jay.  Recently released from prison for something he took the fall for, literally and figuratively, he messes up right away and is back on the run. Mara, plays the up and coming police officer who will never get her just desserts, because her Sheriff father is holding her back.  Finally there is Olivia Wilde.  I must admit, as a heterosexual male, she's almost dizzying in her beauty.  I honestly, don't think I can think of anyone who I think is more attractive.  She plays Liza, the confused sister to Bana's character, who is controlled by him, but falls for Jay.  Somehow, all these characters come together, for Thanksgiving dinner, that changes all of their lives.

Like I said, I don't like spoiling movies in my reviews and I would strongly suggest, if you are interested in making sure you don't watch the trailer.  There is too much given away and will make the ending quite predictable.  I also would urge you not to watch this simply as an action, shoot'em up movie, but dig a little deeper into all of the characters flaws.  The movie, in almost every scene is trying to show different angles of making up for past mistakes. It shows the human side of everyone, aside from Bana. That is also what makes his character so special.  He's the most flawed and does nothing to show a desire to change.  Aside from her radiant looks, Wilde sets the tone for the movie in every seen.  Her mental transformation is really what Deadfall is all about.  If you can appreciate her performance, the movie will take on a different feel.  It's not going to win any awards, but it's a solid film, backed with seven strong performances and definitely worth a look.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why I Disliked The Walking Dead

I was a little late getting around to seeing The Walking Dead.  The reviews I read called it one of the best series to ever hit cable television.  So I'm thinking The Wire, Dexter, The Shield and the first two seasons of the Sopranos level stuff.  Hell, I'll even throw in True Blood, because the episodes I watched (maybe three) were actually fun.  So I get the first DVD which contains the first four episodes out of six.  I watched all four straight through and this is what I came away with,

First off, let me state that I am a horror film fanatic and recently I've seen some truly crazy stuff, like Inside, Calviare and The Woman.  As far as Zombie flicks, I've seen all the classics, such as the Romero, Fulci and the new wave of Zombie films that have added humor, such as Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. So I have something to base it on.  So I was pretty excited to see this series.  And then I watched.

The first episode does what no other series has ever done in it's history.  There is no explanation, there are serious continuity issues and there is lack of star power.  I don't mean this because there are no big name actors, but because there are no roles that jump out.  The main character is almost a subtext in the opener and this is a fatal flaw, because I need to care about this character.  Unlike a movie, where you know everything will be wrapped up in 90-120 minutes, I needed to know this was the guy the series would revolve around and I needed to like or hate him.  There are so many characters you're introduced to that you quickly realize who is going to make it to the second season by the second episode. Another fatal flaw, because in horror, it's what's unexpected that makes for the thrills and chills.

By the end of the fourth episode, which ironically has the most "action," I found myself completely uninterested.  The people who die are such obvious choices and there bit roles are slightly enhanced, right before they are disposed of.  Too cliche and too obvious. As the screen faded to black and there was the dumbest line of the series, which is another reason it failed me.  The script, something even in the silliest of movies, has no tension, no humor, no lust, nothing.  There is no character that jumps out and takes the reins and this is the final flaw.  After about three and a half hours of this, I had decided to retire from watching the rest.  Maybe I'm missing out on the world's greatest second season, but I'll never know.  I'm not going to invest that much time, when I have Snowtown Murders and Deadfall waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Random Thoughts at 5:30am

Is it me or is every zombie movie or TV show that was made in the last 30 years, just a remake of The Warriors, but with Zombies instead of gangs?

The same people who are opposed to the U.S. using drones to kill Americans proven to be siding with terrorist groups abroad were the ones who were mad Clinton didn't kill Bin Laden without proof.

This morning and afternoon I felt awful. Stuffy, sniffling, cold and achy.  I slept as much as I could, then I went and bought spicy food.  Then I walked outside in 30 degree weather in a short sleeved shirt and exaggerated my breathing.  I feel absolutely fine right now (aside from being wide awake). Modern medicine!

I use Facebook as a source of amusement, instigation and at times to start trouble, but the last three months have lead me to believe that about ten percent of my friends need to be medicated.  Honestly.

Today, on a friend's status there were a few comments that bordered on being racist.  I was starting to get angry, until I reached the final on at that moment.  It was the most uneducated statement, made by a moronic individual, which I quickly realized wasn't made out of anger or hate, but just some displaced aggression towards a group based on the teachings of this person's family.  Sad that the circle will never be unbroken, because it takes education to break the cycle of hate that is bred within some families.

My sudden acne breakout or whatever this is, has me so completely depressed, it's unbearable.  I'm not usually vain in any way, but this has me bordering on becoming a hermit.  I can't even imagine how kids handle this in high school. I guess I was lucky back then and I'm paying for some horrible karmic downfall now.

My recent delving into the horror genre has had an interesting effect on me.  I find that watching horror films really brings out some inner happiness.  Not in a macabre way, but I find horror to be almost the same release as comedy or porn.  There is some sort of endorphin release that actually brings happiness to me psyche and a feeling of calm.  Maybe it's natural or maybe it's sick, but it works.  

I wanted to write a blog about my grandmother being 100, but there is this odd thing holding me back.  It's similar to my father's refusal to write about her life.  Neither of us possess the power of an O. Henry short and we both fear that our final chapter will be hers.

As you can see from the title, I got sidetracked with these thoughts.

I spent about an hour looking at photographs of spectacular places on Earth and reading about philosophers who said so much, with so few words.  I wish I could experience the first and have the slightest ability to perform the other.

Goodnight Moon!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Free Writing - Take 18

Well, if all goes as planned, I will be driving tomorrow.  I'm a little nervous to be honest.  It's been almost eighteen months since I last drove.  Here or there I've moved someones car, but that's about it.  It's been a while since I had that freedom and while I look forward to it, I realize there is a change that is going to have to happen.  I can't be careless like I have been in the past.  I made myself that promise and I don't plan on breaking it.  I'm not looking forward to the $100 a month in insurance and however much this gas guzzler take to fill, but I will look forward to the opportunities it will afford me and the potential money it will save me. It's kind of funny, but I'm nervous about the eye test tomorrow.  I haven't been sleeping well and I'm worried that this will affect my vision. The last time I went to renew my license, I had a similar problem and it almost cost me.  That was eight years ago.  I'm not going to worry about it too much, but it's in the back of my mind.  I'm also thinking about how, I will finally have a car and be able to trek down to my favorite Mexican restaurant, but now I'm planning a diet.  Maybe I'll start a day late.  My real goal isn't to diet for too long, but to get down to the weight I was before Thanksgiving, which at last check, was about 12 lbs ago.  This blog entry is growing tired and boring, so I'll cut it short two minutes early, as not to lose any fans, ha.  Goodnight all and stay off the road tomorrow if you see me coming.