Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Karma

I read more Facebook statuses about karma than almost any other topic not related to one's kids and pets.  Karma is the most overused and most incorrectly used term out there today.  Just could you drove your daughter's friends to the movies and had to sit through two hours of One Direction, doesn't mean you are in for a life of pedicures and back rubs. That's not the way it works.  Karma is one of over twenty aspects of the Buddhist belief as to why your life is the way it is and very little of it has to do with this specific life. You may have been a wonderful being in past lives or you may have been a tyrant.  One thing that should be known is that if you really read into it, bad promotes bad and the cycle continues.  It's Buddhists way of explaining the inequality in the world.  Much like other religions use faith and the afterlife as a tool.  In Buddhism there is rebirth, so karma when used by a Christian, Jew or Muslim is about as silly as it gets.

Here is the other thing. Sit back and think about your life.  If you're pointing to that one thing you did for a friend and they didn't return the favor, so you out them anonymously on Facebook, are you really a good person? If you are doing good things because you want something in return, you are not doing it because of your wonderful personality, you're doing it out of selfishness and wish recognition and reciprocation.  This is almost as silly as this new "random acts of kindness" bullshit all over the Internet. If you think about it for weeks and need to tell the world, it is in no way random. 

In the past 10-12 years, I don't think a week goes by that I don't do twenty things for others with absolutely no reciprocation, yet I'm not looking for it.  Sure, when I moved into my apartment nine years ago and the three people I had helped two or three times each, weren't around to help, it bothered me.  Was it karma?  Have their lives turned into some pit of hell? No, they are all doing much better than I.  So in a past life, maybe I was Idi Amin or Hitler and this is why my life is so miserable, right?  Nope, the things that happen to use happen because of chance.  I love the people that gripe about how they work hard and I don't and that's why they have a great job and I don't.  So explain to me how you're on Facebook seven of the eight hours you're at work and you work hard that other hour?  Come watch me run a class, a camp or watch me when I had an office job.  Yes there were down times, but you didn't see me on social media ripping other people's "easy" work schedule.  Will karma catch up with me or with them? Absolutely not.

Stupidity is karmic in a sense. I know a lot of stupid people.  You know what?  Their parents are stupid, their grandparents are stupid and their kids will most likely turn out stupid.  Doesn't mean they are good or bad, it just means that they are genetically transferring a lack of intelligence and it was transferred to them.  Ooh, did I insult someone? Well, guess what.  You can fight this.  Just because your parents were failures in education, doesn't mean you have to be.  Oh, but they started a business and it's successful?  Excellent!  Job well done. Doesn't mean they are smart.  Three of the dumbest people I know make three to four times what any of my other friends with PhD's make.  Is it karma that this happened?  Is it hard work?  No, it's neither.  It's chance, opportunity and many times a shit load of luck.  It's also the life path we've chosen and how we've handled the bumps in the road. 

I could sit back and blame a million things for why I am where I am today.  All could have multiple reasons.  Some my fault, some others, some life and some chance.  You know what it has nothing to do with? Karma, faith, prayer, or any other useless thing that does nothing but to excuse one from the responsibility of their own actions and that dreaded word, fate!  We all know complete wastes of space who have excelled in their lives and we know good people who have suffered.  To be honest, I know more drug addicts, adulterers, horrible parents and connivers who do well than I know good people who do well.  I know more stupid, selfish people who never helped those around them, but had personal success than those who did for others.  Selfishness has its merits.  It is a valuable tool that people use to promote self worth and if you're willing to let those around you suffer to reach your goal, well in many ways, you're a better person than I am.  You have an intestinal fortitude that I don't possess.

Nobody will read this who posts about karma anyway, but the next time you're going to wish bad on someone else based on your past life and your present life's actions, you might want to learn what you're talking about first.  Then skip the rhetoric. While you're at it, donate some money to a charity. Pick a group of people you despise and make their lives better.  Who knows, I could be wrong and your next life might be grand.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Review - The ABC's of Death

Every once in a while a movie comes along and the premise is brilliant.  That doesn't always spell success, but usually when you have an idea like the one posed to directors in this movie, you'd think it would be at least a minimal success. Well minimal is the key word. 

The ABC's of Death is a collection of 26 vignettes directed by some up and coming names in the horror business.  Each one was given a different letter of the alphabet and told to make a movie.  In case you want to see the movies, I don't want to give away the titles, because that is part of the allure of the movie.  The secret words, while in alphabetical order, aren't revealed until after the short is finished. This is actually quite effective, because it makes the viewer think about the word a bit while watching.

For brevity's sake, I'll break down the scores and the number of films that received that score.

1- 11, 2- 3, 3- 2, 4- 5, 5- 1, 6- 2, 7- 0, 8- 0, 9- 1, 10- 1
As you can see the list is very bottom heavy, with an average score of 3. That being said, it is worth seeing for the first four segments, which I had averaging over 7, including a 9 & 10.  One has every single aspect of horror and suspense wrapped into five minutes and the other is just a brilliant reversal of what you think is going to happen from start to finish.  The two sixes are the first segment which is just somewhat shocking and a very sexual towards the middle, which is so visually stimulating I gave it credit for that, even while the idea is lacking and the horror aspect of it, a little bothersome.

Overall the movie is pretty terrible, but if you get a chance to see A, B, D and O, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Especially B&D.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Quickie Review - La Jetee

I will give nothing away about this movie, so do not worry about a spoiler other than a reference to the movie it inspired.

I have taken a film class, worked with a director, spent vast hours studying film and yet this eluded me until Friday evening.  A friend mentioned this to me a while back and I was skeptical, being I had not even heard of it and I'm not a real fan of the Sci-Fi genre. I'm blown away.  Despite not liking 12 Monkeys (for which this film was the inspiration), I will now have to see it again, because of this film.

What amazes me the most about this film is that I knew exactly what the ending was going to be within the first few seconds of the film and none of it mattered. The film is almost entirely still images, which did a magical thing; It allowed us to make our own movie within the pauses, the fades, the darkness.  The narration leads us, but it is us who creates the full picture.  It is us who is taking the journey.  Aside from the one full motion shot, which lasts all of maybe two to three seconds, I was amazed at how much it felt like a regular movie.  That one shot however was exhilarating.  I can't explain it. Definitely one of the best shorts ever and without a doubt one of the greatest sci-fi films, despite being a mere 28 minutes long.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Worst Movie Ever Candidate - Rubber

So the writer/director spends a half a million dollars to prove that the average movie audience is stupid?  He could have saved time and money by just filming an audience watching any of the recent superhero movies or the top rated televisions shows. Yes, I got it, so please don't think condescending thoughts about how the movie was to clever for me.

What truly bothers me is that this could have been a borderline brilliant movie had it actually had some direction.  Had the people not been poisoned by died of starvation waiting for something to happen.  Had the silliness of the mass killings not occurred. Had some of the actors stepped out and some remained.  The bottom line is that the Duplex wanted to offend the viewer's lack of intelligence, but his lack of vision and skill did nothing but offend our senses.  An utter waste of time and energy.

Free Writing - Take 29

This will be a short one because it's almost 4am and this is the latest I've been awake in a long time. I had gotten myself to a pretty good schedule, but with one terrible flaw.  I've been napping at the same time I'll soon be teaching.  Three meals alone again and I forgot how much I hate it.  Dinner was awful.  Rushed, ill-conceived and added flavors that didn't meld together.  I look forward to breakfast or brunch tomorrow. Today made me realize some things about Facebook. There are some truly shattered souls out there. Smiling pics, quotes from the heavens and little jokes to mask the pain.  What about those that don't mask it. The one's who put each and every one of life's obstacles on for everyone to see?  I worry about them, hope that it's all for attention and not a cry for help.  I feel like the Internet has become a hotline that nobody answers.  I find it even funnier, although appreciated, that people don't get what I'm doing.  It shows the intelligence of most.  The ones that ignore and talk behind my back, they are the dumbest of the bunch.  Speaking to those who tell me everything.  Then there are the ones who like to follow.  The ones who comment to keep tabs. The ones who insult, not realizing I know more about their lives than they know.  There are the ones who embrace, who get it, who smile, who laugh, who mock. The small circle of people who know what IT is all about. Today was a weird day.  Movies, sleep and math.  Scribbles of paper with numbers and lines.  One could break into my apartment and find tons of them. The Unibomber without words and without bombs.  Statistics and theory blowing up in my brain.  Impressing nobody, but satisfying my own curiosity.  Imagine if I had been born earlier and had the math degree.  Had the insight to write it all down first.  I was a boy, but I was figuring the same. One man makes millions with the same idea I arrived at years ago.  He gave it a name, I call it scribbles.  A winner derived from the boredom of one.  This all seems like babble, but it makes sense to me.  I can't wait to feel the cool sheets on my feet and hopefully think about nothing.  Last night I thought about others, thought about life before.  Smiled and cried.  Slept and awoke, to the same feeling I felt years ago and will feel years from now.  Wonder. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Free Writing - Take 28

It's later than I've been staying up since the last few nights. At least it feels like today has been longer.  The first day spent almost entirely alone and in over a month and it made me realize how lonely I've been lately.  Sure I have friends and I appreciate them, but I don't have anyone to say goodnight to, so wish my sweet dreams or to wake up and converse with each morning.  It's a lonely existence living alone.  Sure the quiet and the lack of restrictions is nice at times, but there is something about being able to chat over a meal that I miss a lot.  Today marks a somewhat painful anniversary of sorts.  Not really an anniversary, but an epiphany that was forgotten and never really recognized.  Nothing has changed in two years and I'm a lesser person because of it.  This isn't a pity cry or anything like that, no, it is merely a realization. I have cut ties with many and ironically one of those ties said hello recently.  Too late, too tired and a dying phone battery made a connection impossible, but then, awake the next  morning, I didn't return the last text. I messaged someone else from my past.  The last few days, I've somewhat embraced pain, both mental and physical, both the past and the present.  Pain has become part of life.  Age, experience, weathering of one's soul.  Call it what you will, but pain reminds us we're alive.  Pain reminds us of better times and allows us perspective.  Three months ago I had hopes for certain things and I'd given up on others.  I've given up on many more, but I have new hopes.  To call them dreams, means they will never come true, so I'm apprehensive.  I want to do so much when I return, but that little green item which makes the world go round is out of grasp for many weeks to come.  Parties, games, maybe even romance, all put on hold, while time creeps up from various directions.  Looking to sink it's teeth into me or at least my wallet.  Debts increase, money decreases and with it, opportunity.  Ah, to be able to start fresh, how nice that would be.  Well, I time myself on these and I have but a minute left.  I will miss the taste of haddock in a golden fry, the tangy tartar and the cold Chardonnay. The paprika sprinkled rice and the cool evenings.  The sounds of two glasses clinking and the sounds that remind me that there is something better that awaits. I hope.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Movie Remakes We Need To See

I normally hate remakes and if it's from something I love, there are times when I refuse to watch the remake, no matter who is in it.  Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is a perfect example of this.  I also don't like when I see remakes that aren't credited as remakes, because the writer/director completely stole the idea.  Take Hunger Games for example.  Anyone who watched it knew immediately it was an expensive rip off of the brilliant Battle Royale.  Then there are the remakes which actually work, like The Jason Statham version of The Mechanic, which stays true to the grit and violence of the original.  So this got me thinking about movies that either failed the first time or could benefit from some modernization.  They could also be made simply by pure inspiration from the original, but lacking any real ties.

The first movie that came to mind was the mid-80's horror comedy, Night of the Comet.  It starred up and comer Catherine Mary Stewart, who never really made it big, but is "that girl" in a ton of movies you've seen.  Basically it's an end of the world movie, with two girls trying to survive and figure out what is going on. As we all know those rarely work, but with the current infatuation with zombies and some pretty good movies representing the genre, this would be a great time to do an updated, scarier version.  I could definitely see this as a great vehicle for two lesser known television actresses, but would love to see a serious twist with Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning.

An incredibly underrated movie from the 1950's is The Incredible Shrinking Man.  One could call the movie a horror film, because of the ongoing battle with a spider and the obvious fear of wasting away to nothing, but the movie is really a spiritual awakening for a man who needs to feel all is not lost.  Actors who can command the screen without  a co-star would be great for something like this.  My first choice would be Kevin Spacey, but one could go older with Bill Murray or younger with someone like Jamie Foxx.  I don't think the movie would play well with a very young pretty boy.  Another option would be to cast a strong woman like Jodie Foster.

Gilligan's Island is a classic TV show, but if one was to really take a look at it, stripping away the humor, it could make for a great social commentary on class warfare in today's world.  I'm imagining this as a British film. Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson as the Howells, Michael Fassbender (yes I know he's German/Irish) as the Professor, Emily Blunt as Ginger, Emma Watson as Marie Anne, Ray Winstone as Ray Winstone playing the Skipper and Daniel Radcliffe as Gilligan. I would envision this as more of an adult Lord of the Flies.  With this cast, anything would work.

I have a few other ideas, but might have bigger plans for those???







Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Texas Hold'Em Craze

Like most people I watched some nobody named Chris Moneymaker win the World Series of Poker.  Unlike most people, I had been watching the World Series of Poker since it's days at Binions when guys like Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, Stu Unger and a young Johnny Chan were in their heyday.  Edward Norton in Rounders was not my introduction into the "sport."  That being said, I had never been in a tournament, but when I got my first invite, I jumped at the opportunity.

My first tournament was a fundraiser. A five table shootout. Eight men started at each table and played until there was one winner who would get their $100 back. Then the five single table winners would play until there was one winner and the winner would receive $1000.  I dominated my single table and actually was the player who knocked out all seven of my opponents.  We sat down at the final table and within about twenty hands it was down to three of us.  I was second in chips and laid back while the chi leader bullied the other guy into 3rd place.  Now, with an aggressive opponent, I knew I just needed to get lucky. I caught a pair of Jacks on the first hand post flop and went all in.  He called with an Ace high and I doubled up, but still had less than half the chips.  We went back and forth, trading blinds, until I got lucky and took over the chip lead.  It wasn't two hands later he went all in with a small pair and I called him with A-J suited. I caught an Jack on the flop and he could only win with trips, which I caught on the turn, clinching victory.  First tournament in, up $1000.

I then started playing in a weekly tournament which was nine guys, who would play two single table tournaments.  It was $50 buy-in with payouts of $250-150-50.  We actually kept track and after about eight weeks, I was up about $1100. The game eventually grew to about 14 guys and went on for a few months.  Then we heard about a tournament in Yonkers with about 70 guys.  Eight of us went and paid the $100 buy in. This tournament was a little different in that you could re buy for a half stack for $50.  There was one interesting wrinkle. You could pay for the extra half stack to start the tourney.  So I did the obvious thing and bought $1500 in chips.  When I sat down, only one other player had done this.  We dominated and soon, there were only three tables of nine left and I had about $15,000 in chips.  I coasted into the final table and sat down with $18,000, the chips leader with $30,000 and the other seven had an average of about $6000.  It was pretty funny, because of the 70 people involved about 62 of them knew each other and then there were the eight of us, five of who made the final table. The top five got paid and unfortunately two of my friends missed the cut, one who I knocked out.  I was fortunate, I made it to the final two.  I went in a severe chip leader to one of the cockiest assholes on the planet, but he got very quiet when I flopped a straight and slow played it to death, while he raised and raised.  Within five hands I had won the tournament and $3400.  By the end of the year, I had been playing Texas Hold'em nearly every week for 16 months and was up roughly $6000. The following year, in weekly $100 and $50 games, I managed to stay ahead about $3500 and the third year about $2200, thought I had limited my play to once a week.  The fourth year I was only playing once a month and the level of play in this tournament was pretty low.  I won money, but it wasn't much and for the year I was up a few hundred.  My love for the game was deeply affected, because i knew the game was no loner a game of skill, but one of luck.

One night, with no interest in playing, I got talked into a game. I sat down and opened a beer.  The cards came around and someone made a ridiculous opening raise. $10,000 in chips, the blinds $25-50 and this person makes it $1000.  The person next to me makes it $3000.  I look at my cards and see KK.  I immediately think they both have A-K and figure I'm about a 75% to win, but know if no ace come on the flop, I'm almost golden. I make it $6000 and the first guy folds and the second goes all-in.  Of course, he has aces and knocked me out the first hand.  I got up and left.  That was April, 2008 I believe.  The last time I played poker in a tournament.  I can honestly say, I have no desire at all to play poker. 

I won way more than I ever imagined and it actually paid for a lot of things.  I played in other big tournaments and I've won other big prizes, but the game takes an incredible mental toll on you when you play it the way I did.  I started to realize that what I loved about the game was that it wasn't a game of chance, but a true test of skill.  When I started sitting down with guys who didn't understand the complexities of the game, it became a game of luck and that's when I became disinterested.  I will admit, I played one game since...with six good players.  I won. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Comment About Every Post On Facebook Over The Last Four Hours

I'm bored and I need some writing practice.  Instead of my free writing, I'm scrolling back to 8PM and I'm not going to write what the comment was, just a one or two sentence comment on the status updates, links and memes.  I'll leave off the ads the generator posts by pages I follow and keep it to people.  And no, this isn't going to be all negative, haha.  If you actually looked at Facebook a lot this evening, this is about how exciting it got....

Beautiful letter from one beautiful sister to another.
A weather status. Shocking.
Another weather status, but this one was funny.
Soccer, I have no idea who that is.
Hope your dinner was excellent.
Someone thinking Assad is controlling Obama?  What?
My friend's weekend plans.
Seaside heights fire. Sad.
Bunch of girls taking pics during dinner.
Someone's family watching a game.
Hey I posted that earlier.
One word status that makes no sense.
Hilarious new car woes.
Weird picture.
Advertising a business.
Hyping a band I can't stand.
Someone posting something to get a reaction.
Dammit, I'm missing this.
Pandering for replies.
Hottie watching football.
Awwwww that's adorable?
Yowza! Best view of the day.
Some of my friends drink a lot more than me.
Frustrated reporter reporting yesterday's news.
Pet Woes
Kid Woes
Friend reaching out
More old news
Cool pics of space
More booze
Sentimental stuff.
Ugh, don't you know when nobody likes it, nobody reads it?
Drunken dinner?
People sharing actual ads? Huh?
Cute kid!
Yom Kippur
More News nobody cares about
A bible verse which I had to look up, Exact opposite of how this person lives.
Who bitches about the refs when their team doesn't play and isn't a gambler?
Yankees fans rooting for the Red Sox....never catch me doing that.
More Seaside sadness.  Nobody commented on Boulder.
Me explaining my lack of interest in a movie - riveting.
More seaside.
More old news.
Why would you show missing kids pics when your friends are nowhere near?
Animal shelter
Fundraiser
Weekend plans
Weekend plans
Weekend plans
A recipe....looks gross
More seaside. The fact Sandy hit isn't a coincidence, it hit the whole northeast coast.
Weekend plans
Old school pics
What I did at work that isn't remotely exciting to anyone that doesn't work with the person.
Yankee fan whiners.
Church stuff
Shout out to a friend. Very nicely put.
Daughter
Video
Meme - not funny at all
Seaside, yes we know
Artwork
Me being a wiseass
Me bored posting singers
Me bored posting a picture
Gym stuff (wow first one).
Crazy Train...and not the song
Jet fan screaming
Jet fan happy
Friend talking about something I'm clueless about
Friend posting link about something I'm clueless about
Look another 15 pics of the same thing
Inspirational meme
Me trying to make people laugh
Meme
Meme
Meme
Jet fan making fun of the Bills (they are playing the Patriots)
Jet fan going ape shit
Friend letting us know what he's doing, if you get the joke.
Yankee fan waiting til game is over to mention Yankees
15 more pics
Cute pic of daughter
Happiness
Complaints
Someone wanting everyone to know they are happy

and this is why I love Twitter






Thursday, September 12, 2013

9/12 - A New America

Well, yesterday was one of the more painful days on social media. Everyone telling everyone else how they are doing patriotism wrong and how they bleed red white and blue. It was about as patriotic as a cross burning if you ask me.  First I woke up to about 30 pictures of the towers, reminding me about a day that I really hate thinking about.  Do we dig dead people up and parade them around once a year to seem more noble?  No, we remember them, shed a tear and we do it in our own way, privately.

I got into a twitter war with some ass hat who kept telling me about the 800,000 bikers in Washington who were shoving it up the Muslim's ass and representing the United States of Fucking America!  Then the person told me to suck some dicks because I laughed at what I thought was a man (the name was Dan).  After cursing at me, calling me gay and some other stupid shit, she told me she was a mother.  I bid her good day and told her that I hoped her kid didn't end up to be a dumb twat like her mother.  Yeah, sorry, but I had to stoop to her level to shut her up, because she wasn't understanding the big words.  By the way, this was all over the fact that I questioned the number of bikers when I read that the entire march was a mere 1/3 of a mile long and in double file, this could only have been a few hundred bikers at most.  I read something from a DC resident that it was no more than 3,000.  And many of them didn't ride, because they stayed back to harass the 20 Muslims and revved their engines during a moment of silence for those whose lives ended on 9/11.  Classy!  This isn't a reflection of all bikers mind you, but pretty much those who rode in that anti-Muslim march.  It should also be noted that there were quite a few accidents....drinking and driving?

As I read Facebook and scanned Twitter, it dawned on me that about one in ten people were posting because of their personal sadness.  They were almost all posting to get a like, a comment or appear better than others.  The highlight of the day was the Towers, wrapped in a flag, with an eagle crying blood.  Patriotic?

It really struck me how angry my friends were.  Many commented on political or satirical threads with anti-Muslim, Obama or anything not American remarks and some were vicious.  The memory of that day is still vivid, but what has happened to the world, especially this country is lost.  We're no longer a true super power.  Sure, our military expenditures dwarf the rest of the world.  Our firepower is unquestioned, but what about our moral fiber.  We've never been more split on issues in our nation's history.  9/11 is a great indicator of our divide every year.  As one friend put it, "it's the scab we keep picking, never allowing it to heal."  This is so true, but we revel in this.

Some might read this and see me as anti-American, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  I'm as pro-American as they come, but I'm not proud of what we're becoming.  I don't like the hate and I do a hell of a lot more than most to stop it.  I stand up to the uneducated and ignorant bullies on social media.  I stand up to them in person too.  I use facts and intelligence, which used to be deadly weapons in debates, but they fall on deaf ears.  Now it's how you tell the information and it's substance and validity mean nothing.  If you can tell your story and it seems feasible, you can sell it as fact. Or you can do what some of my more dimwitted friends do and just ended your sentence with the word fact!

Yesterday, I thought about 9/11/01, but I also thought about my street in Brooklyn and I went down the street. Male, female, rich, middle class, poor, French, German, Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Greek, Black, White, Chinese, Cuban, Republican, Democrat, Independent (when it meant something), Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, multiracial, multi-religion, atheists, straight, gay, bi, asexual.  This was all within one block in Brooklyn. This was what this country was. We watched over each other and we loved each other, for no other reason than we were neighbors and we shared one two things in common.  We were New Yorkers, but more importantly, we were Americans.  On 9/11/01 we were all Americans, but ever since that day, this hasn't been true.  At least not in the way I knew it before.




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Obsessive Reader Who Never Reads

There is no question I fear more from intellectual types than the dreaded literary question, "What are you reading?"  Among certain people, it is always assumed that you spend your evenings, curled up on a couch, a snifter of brandy by your side, with thin-rimmed glasses set atop the edge of your nose, completely immersed in some classic novel.   Sadly, I haven't sat down with a book in many years.  It is, among others, one of my biggest regrets.

Despite have a plethora of spare time, I just can't keep fixated on one subject.  I make excuses constantly, claiming bad lighting, no comfortable seating or an acute case of adult ADD.  Two of these three claims can be easily proven, the other is probably something I have had since birth, but luckily was born in a time where it wasn't stigmatized.  I've always had problems with reading.  Not the actual act, but the act of sitting still long enough to actually read something.  I claim also to be a slow reader, but many who have handed me items, don't believe it to be true.  My father just handed me a three page section of a book written by Patti Smith, where she talks about her time with the poet Jim Carroll.  I could go on and on about this, but what I found was, I was soon ten pages in and the clock had barely moved.  Interesting writing captivates me and makes me lose sense of time and space, which is a wonderful feeling.  I remember reading Delillo's White Noise in one sitting, albeit an 11 hour sitting.  I attack books like movies, but soon realize that I could watch six movies in the same time and these stimulants will take me in six different directions and I generally choose this method of escapism.

I recently took a quiz on "classic literature" and was shocked at how much I had read, almost all during my younger years.  A few weeks ago, a good friend told me they were somewhat amazed at how much I read.  I looked puzzled, but they explained that while reading my rants, responses and diatribes on Facebook, they realized that I had researched all the topics I was commenting on, citing sources and displaying an incredible memory for multiple topics.  They asked me to do a little test.  To take a day and count the pages I had read.  I didn't even know how to go about this, but I did anyway.  The final tally at the end of the day was 256 paragraphs.  I don't know how much that is in comparison to a novel and I don't know if that would be considered a lot, by the every day reader.  That is how little I know about reading.

I enjoy reading, but I get bored easily. I am constantly starting books, magazine articles and other written works and putting them down before I am finished.  I usually do so, simply because I am no longer interested.  This is why the works of someone like Stephen King disgust me.  Get to the damn point already!  I love reading short stories, poems or critical essays.  Things with a clear beginning, middle and end.  I also need the writing to make me visualize.  I hate photographs and drawings in novels, because I need to be able to make the story my own.  I love dissecting each line as I read, trying to see where the story is going before it does.  I have become so adept at doing this in movies, that the twists that become that of legend are usually a ho-hum experience for me.  This doesn't mean they aren't enjoyable.  It actually pushes me internally to one day sit down and do it myself.  I just need that spark of inspiration, because I realize how much of my writing is shit.

I rarely sit down to read a novel anymore and this is one of my personal demons.  I might die without ever reading the classic not taught in our educational system.  There may be an uncomfortable silence, from the person who always has an opinion, when the topic of literature comes up.  I will try and change that, but for now, I'm too consumed knowing everything there is to know about two thousand different topics and while some might have to do with pride and/or prejudice, I will be silent when one comments or questions anything pertaining to the Austen novel.  I might have grown up in a different time, but I have succumbed to the 140 characters or less generation and I'm not entirely ashamed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Best First Day of School Ever

With all the pictures being posted on Facebook of friend's children going to their first day of this grade and that, it is making me slightly nostalgic.  The first day of school is an interesting one, because depending on the situation, there can be various emotions battling each other.  For most, there is a thin line between excitement and fear, something that most people try to recapture as adults, but never quite grasp that feeling of the adolescent butterflies that we fear and welcome all at once.

My best first day of school was fourth grade.  I was entering a new school and a revered school.  I had finished second grade in June of 1978 and had taken a test to get into a prestigious private school called St. Ann's.  Despite its moniker, it as not a religiously affiliated school.  At the time, it was the best school in NY and in many eyes, the best in the country.  It was far from a normal school and I looked forward to fitting into the school where not everyone had to fit in.  My bets friend was going there and while that had a calming effect, it wasn't exactly as it seemed as there would be a huge change.  Was I ready? Would I be eaten up and spit out? Would I be scared?  Most of all, would I be able to handle it?

Not three full months after finishing second grade, I was entering a much more difficult school, so there was pressure.  The fact that I was skipping third grade and entering fourth, made it all the more nerve-wracking. I remember walking in on the first day and seeing all these unfamiliar faces. I was the new guy. Most of the students knew each other, but as I soon found out that wasn't a big deal.  What scared me the most was my schedule.  Yes, unlike most schools, we had a schedule and it wasn't the same every day.  Classes were on different floors and while most of my classes were on the fourth or fifth floors, I did have science on the 6th and Gym on the 12th, music on the 11th and art across the street.  Yes, this was 1978 and we all walked unassisted from one building to the next.

My first class was language structures with Bob Swacker, a thick bearded man with small thin-rimmed glasses.  Mr. Swacker explained that my skipping a grade would be a problem because I was expected to write in cursive and I hadn't learned.  So now, on top of being a year younger and starting a new school, I had to teach myself how to write in script.  Something, I fully admit, I still haven't mastered.  Penmanship aside, I loved the class. This was followed by Global History, also with Mr. Swacker within the same classroom.  There was some sort of break between the first two classes, maybe a homeroom of some type, I don't remember, but then it was off to gym.  The weather was nice, so the gym class wasn't held inside, but at a park, about a four minute walk from the school.  Most of us ran.  Upon return, I went to my locker, grabbed my books and it was off to math class. Then there was something I hadn't experienced before. A free period.  They called it study hall, but the reality was, I was free to roam the school at my leisure.  By then, I had made some friends and they showed me where things were.  After lunch, I headed off to science, music and English (not to be confused with language structures). Then it was back home, where my mouth went a mile a minute as I explained my day to my mother and father.

They sat in great confusion and puzzlement as phrases came from an eight year old's mouth that made them question the money they were spending, that they didn't have, to send me to this school or reputed prestige. 

"There are 12 floors and we walk to the park by ourselves."  It should be noted this was a big ordeal the following year, with the much publicized disappearance of Etan Patz. "We have 'free' periods." "We share the school with kids from Kindergarten to 12th grade.  The 12 graders even have a room where they can all hang out and smoke, inside the school." "My English teacher invented a bicycle you sit down and put your feet out to ride.  It's like a lounge chair with wheels." 

And then came the one comment that would floor my parents and change my life and view of education in many ways, even today.  "Mom, Dad, there are no grades."  As someone whose only fear was being able to compete on an intellectual level, the idea that I wouldn't be graded, in comparison to other students was a weight lifted that you could not imagine.  What we did receive were well documented and incredibly descriptive evaluations detailing all of our strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they came with no weaknesses at all, but for the most part, they always had just enough to keep us working our hardest.  It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me and it changed me.  It made me realize the work was the important part and not the rote memory. That the performance and actual use of intelligence was more important than merely having it.  When I left St. Ann's and returned to the public school system, it hurt me, because I was not expected to use what I had learned, just basically regurgitate it.  This to me wasn't learning, it was institutionalizing. 

As I look back on that day, I remember the best part about it.  It wasn't a single teacher or friend that I met.  It wasn't anything I wore, nothing I read or anything I heard.  It wasn't any sense of pride or feeling of accomplishment that touched me.  It was the most simple and at the same time, most complex feeling I'd ever felt.  It was the knowledge I would not be judged on one test, one paper or project, but on where I ended up and how I got there.  Each of my five years in St. Ann's was a unique journey, with no A, B or C to change the path I was on.   There was no feeling of grandeur from a 92 or feeling of despair from a 79.  Those 13 points wouldn't define what type of student I was or who I had become. It was a paragraph, maybe two at the end of each semester, which stated what we excelled at and what we needed to improve upon.  Imagine if every kid were to be judged on what they can do and what they need to work harder on and they never were told that they are 17 points from being perfect or seven points from being satisfactory.  It was then I gained an appreciation for education and knowledge, but it was then, I know now, that I began a life of cynicism in how we judge ourselves and others.  That day was nothing but optimism and the sometimes false pretense that we can achieve anything we put our mind to, as long as we're constantly told we can and that no letter or number will ever define us. 

Do I believe that today?



Friday, September 6, 2013

My Ten Favorite Sporting Events - You Might Be Surprised

OK, this list isn't individual events I have been to or I'd have to include my brother getting his very first hit in little league as one.  Nope, this is the ten yearly (or close) events that I look forward to.  In reverse order.

10. Opening Day of Baseball - there is something about that five month wait that makes that first pitch extra special.

9. The Super Bowl - Despite the hype, the game is rarely as exciting as it is advertised.  Obviously, if my team is in it, this jumps up.

8. The Kentucky Derby - Name one thing you can lose money, get drunk and the best part is over in two minutes?  Scratch that.

7. Sunday at the Masters - Usually this is the best day in golf and has had some truly surprising results over the years.

6. The NHL Playoffs - doesn't matter what game, it's all the same to me. Amazing intensity for every second of the game.  Too bad the regular season sucks.

5. Any Game 7 in a World Series (Or Divisional Series) - Two best teams. Usually two great pitchers and usually drama.

4. The NCAA Final Four Championship - From tip to One Shining Moment, it's one of the best things in sports.

3. Breakfast at Wimbledon - The Men's Final on Sunday morning.  It is almost always two of the very best battling for three or four hours.

2. Any Red Sox/Yankees regular season game (when both are in contention) - The greatest rivalry in sports captivates me even when they aren't close, but when they are, it's magic.

1. The First (Two) Day(s) of March Madness - 16 games in twelve hours and then they do it again.  It's arguably the only time I'm ever completely uninterested in anything else going on in the world or directly around me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Building Intensity: The Shining's Unsung Scene

Despite Stephen King's claims that he doesn't like Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of his novel, the film version of The Shining is arguably one of the greatest horror films of all-time.  What separates The Shining from most other movies is it's ability to inject the horror slowly.  Unlike Jaws, which notifies us with music or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which fills us with dreaded thoughts, The Shining scares us with the Jack Torrance's slow decent into madness.  Scenes are carefully constructed to bring us to the incredible finale, but it is one scene in particular that completes the movie for me and it's not what you think.

The entire film demonstrates how desolation both physically and mentally takes it's toll on the main character.  As he withdraws from his wife and son, he allows the demons inside himself and the hotel to overtake him.  When he finally goes after his wife and son he is completely insane. In the most memorable scene, Jack goes after his wife and bashes the door she has locked herself behind in with an axe.  As he attempts to open the door she cuts him with a knife.  It is at this moment, a noise saves her.  Fast forward about five minutes and Jack is chasing his young son through a snowy shrub maze fully intending to kill him, only to find his own demise.  This all plays out perfectly, but the real gem of the movie is the scene that is sandwiched between these two more known masterpieces.

The scene of which I speak is built in clips through the previous scene, where Halloran senses Danny, the son is in danger.  He jumps on a plane and then somehow reaches the blizzard buried hotel.  The viewer realizes that this trip is both spontaneous and long.  As Halloran enters the hotel, he walks down a columned hallway, calling out for anyone that might answer. As he reaches the end of the columns, Jack jumps from behind one of the columns and buries and axe into Halloran's heart. This causes Danny, who had been silent until now, to scream and run from his hiding spot.  An insane looking Jack, rises into the screen, his expression one of sheer madness. It's a simple scene, but to me, it is the scariest scene of the movie, because there isn't a second we don't know what is about to happen, but when it does, it's pure magic.

If you're interested in watching the full scene, from the point Halloran enters the hotel, click on the youtube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD2KWPMsPUE

In most movies today, the fear invoked is one that catches us off guard or in the case of some foreign films, overwhelms us with violence or gore.  The brilliance in Kubrick's film is that even a simple scene like this, is built so perfectly with subtle movements, that the viewers find themselves leaning forward, bracing for the inevitable.  When it happens, it's all the more frightening.  It's a scene that will always stay with me for it's brilliance on every level.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stop Trying So Hard People

School is a time for kids to not only learn, but to find their niche.  To find out who they are.  Usually they find a group of similar people and they find their comfort zone.  As adults, they stay with that path and it defines not only them, but who they end up with and how their children turn out.  This is pretty much the way it's always been.  Sure there are some who change religions, jobs, social setting and locations, but for the most of us, the trip isn't that exciting.  For most, it's somewhat defined by our surroundings.  I'm guilty as charged, so I'm not judging.  Not happy, but not judging.

Here's the problem.  Facebook!  Facebook has turned people who have always been one way into uncontrollable animals.  With the advent of Facebook, people who were completely happy in their own lives, now crave the unknown.  Everyone is jealous of everyone elses job, marriage, house, vacation spot, hobbies and social life.  It's an absolute clusterfuck of emotions, set off by (for the most part) lies.  You would think a daily snapshot into people's lives would make it more difficult to hide the atrocious lives many of us lead, but with a little subtle comments and maybe some photoshop, you can turn the regular into the spectacular.

I'm sure Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" will play in the ears of the readers, but here are just some examples.  There are the chronic spouse applauders. Praising their husbands or wives for being the best this or that and the most thoughtful people ever known.  Wasn't that you I overheard telling me about the impending separation last week at Stop & Shop?  Oh, you're wife is your "rock?"  Guess that woman I saw you with two towns over is your paper, because everyone knows paper beats rock.  Your husband is best, then why are there no pictures of him with your kids, it's always you and your parents?  Just asking, sorry to offend.

So you like to work out, jog, do obstacle courses, practice yoga, do kickboxing and eat healthy.  So do a lot of people.  You know who most of them do it for?  Themselves!  Not for Facebook.  You know why?  Because nobody and I mean nobody cares.  I have friends who teach yoga, teach MMA, teach kickboxing, teach sports, hell, I teach sports.  You know what I don't bore people with?  Telling them about it.  Nobody cares.  Sure, if you cook something delicious, a picture is great, but I don't need to know you jogged 2.67 miles in whatever time, because you had a slice of cheesecake.  Nobody needs to know that shit.  Nobody cares and if you're doing it for others, you've failed.  I know people who have had liposuction, gastric bypass, the ring thingies and they have lost much needed weight and they look wonderful.  They now workout. Good for them, but please, stop the preaching about a healthy lifestyle.  If I could afford non-essential surgery to make my fat ass skinny, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  You know what I'd post on Facebook.  Look at the miracle of vacuuming fat out, now let's hope my love for red meat and lethargy doesn't lead to a serious weight gain.

Also, you people who are too old to still be mesmerized by live music.  Get a grip.  Twenty-two year old skipping responsibilities to frolic in the sun, while listening to their favorite indie band is cool.  If you're 30+, you need to look at this as anyone else with reality based depression. This is why people watch TV, read, go to the movies.  Your obsession with this or that band at a certain age takes on a slightly sad tone. Oh and if you're doing this with professional wrestling at the same age, we need to have a sit down.

While I realize the reason for Facebook was never to have political debates and arguments about child rearing, it might be interesting to note, it also wasn't meant for people to promote their businesses and their religious beliefs.  It wasn't meant to be a help wanted sign for every lost animal to walk the face of the earth.  It was meant to share ideas and thoughts, so that is fine, but if you have an agenda and it's based on ideas other than your own, you might need to find a group of like minded people to stroke your fragile ego.

If you're 40 and you're taking selfies, I'm going on the assumption you are looking for sex or you aren't getting enough attention at home. This goes for both men and women.  If you're "happily" married and you feel the need to get as naked as you can on the Internet, please see the OED and look up happily.  If you are young and single, please remember that you're being objectified by the contents of your photos and it's human nature to make assumptions, so don't be surprised if the bookworm thinks you're a slut or the intellect thinks you're a meat head.  Then again, I find, people usually find what they deserve.

People might say, who am I to judge.  They are 100% correct.  I don't deserve a position of superiority and I'm not looking for one.  I do however don't want you to unfriend me, harass me, curse at me, block me, badmouth me or any other attack just because I call a spade a spade.  If you make yourself look stupid and ask me why people are mean, I will tell you.  Many times, I'll tell you before people are mean.  Also remember, just because friends liked your picture and told you you look nice or told you to have fun, doesn't mean they think you're the cat's meow. 

Stop trying to be something you're not.  Act within your age range. Remember if you're young those drunken photos might cost you a job and if you're older, they might make others perceive you have a problem.  Remember that meme you posted about deadbeat welfare receivers might make your white neighbor in a half a million dollar home laugh, but it might hurt the person you know going through a hard time, who needs those funds to survive.  Remember that your political views might be noble, but know if those politicians you're backing are as noble as those views.  Remember that what you think others don't see is very visible.  I've seen people who claim to be all loving bash religions, genders and races on what they think is a private page. I've seen people admit to crimes, who think they are telling a funny story. I've seen pictures with things in the background that went unnoticed to many, but could have ended marriages. I've seen people who never wanted their pictures on Facebook, plastered all over.  I see pages and pages of people not being who they really are.  Trying to either step into a world they aren't a part of or one they are jealous of.  I've seen those grasping onto adolescence, many years past the time it's acceptable.  I've seen people giving up their youth in an attempt to seem more mature.  I've seen lives being lied about and sometimes ruined, by others need to put every moment of their lives out there.  At one time, I did it with my personal life and realized it was not the way to go.

Here's the thing that bothers me most.  Every one of us is special in our own way.  We have something within us that is worth offering.  It's special though, not to be handed out daily, like some sort of party favor.  The thing that truly bothers me is how much acceptance people in today's world need.  I teach between 80-100 kids every year, it used to be more.  If I had a 100, I could have 99 pay me no mind, as long as that one kid said "thank you." If that one kid, told me I made a difference.  If that one kid, gave me a high five at the end of class.  For a very few, that is all it takes.  If you have a child of your own and they look you in the eye at night and tell you "I love you Mommy" or "I love you Daddy." Why do you need anything else, especially the approval of someone on Facebook?  Stop trying so hard and just be.

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 NFL Predictions

Before you go shaking your head about my predictions and saying "what does he know that I don't know?" Let me tell you one thing.  I picked six of eight division winners last year and literally one game in the AFC and one in the NFC was the difference between me having seven of ten playoff teams and having nine.  Every year I use the same process to make my regular season predictions, but this year, I'm using the Las Vegas over/under wins in predictions process.  This is my way of separating the 7-9, 8-8 and 9-7 teams.  Due to using this added information, I don't have any teams going worse than 5-11 and none better than 12-4, which is most likely not going to be the case, due to the inevitable injury bug.  For instance, Minnesota was 10-6 last year, but they are a 4-12 team without AP and I don't think he's making it through this season unscathed.  Same as Washington with RGIII.  On the other hand, I'm giving Murray on the Cowboys the benefit of the doubt he can stay healthy, as I am Matt Forte of Chicago.  The last few years I haven't listed records, but this year I will. 

AFC East
New England Patriots 11-5 (3)
Miami Dolphins 7-9
Buffalo Bills 5-11
New York Jets 5-11

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens 9-7 (4)
Cincinnati Bengals 9-7 (5)
Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
Cleveland Browns 7-9

AFC South
HoustonTexans 11-5 (2)
Indianapolis Colts 8-8
Tennessee Titans 6-10
Jacksonville Jaguars 5-11

AFC West
Denver Broncos 12-4 (1)
Kansas City Chiefs 9-7 (6)
San Diego Chargers 6-10
Oakland Raiders 5-11

NFC East
New York Giants 10-6 (4)
Dallas Cowboys 9-7
Washington Redskins 7-9
Philadelphia Eagles 7-9

NFC North
Green Bay Packers 11-5 (2)
Chicago Bears 10-6 (6)
Detroit Lions 7-9
Minnesota Vikings 7-9

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons 12-4 (1)
New Orleans Saints 8-8
Carolina Panthers 7-9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-10

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks 11-5 (3)
San Francisco 49'ers 11-5 (5)
Arizona Cardinals 5-11
St. Louis Rams 5-11

Playoffs
Wild Card

New England over Kansas City
Cincinnati over Baltimore
Seattle over Chicago
San Francisco over New York

Divisional

Denver over Cincinnati
Houston over New England
Atlanta over San Francisco
Green Bay over Seattle

Conference

Houston over Denver
Atlanta over Green Bay

Super Bowl XLVIII Champions

Atlanta Falcons


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cinephile or Movie Snob?

I have been called a movie snob, a food snob and an elitist.  Is it wrong to be bothered by the acceptance of mediocre and calling it greatness?  If I go to dinner, I don't want the $24 steak I can make better at home for $9. I want the 45 day dry aged porterhouse for $90. If I sit down to be entertained, I don't want two hours of bad acting, CGI effects and a plot twist I saw coming a mile away.  I want to get up from my chair (or bed) sweating, panting, mind racing a mile a minute. I want horror to send me dashing into the shower, scrubbing the stench of death from my body.  I want psychological thrillers to send me walking aimlessly at 2am looking for an answer. I want my belly to hurt, not from copious amounts of popcorn and soda, but from side splitting humor.  I want to walk away from the screen questioning life, not just the movie I've just seen.

Recently, I've come across a ton of movie buffs on Twitter.  I've enjoyed hearing their views and I'm glad to see that many people out there are frustrated critics like myself.  I do however have a rule for my own critiques and that is never to give anything away.  I am different in that sense and I know it makes my reviews lack any real depth, but I find that if one person sees a movie with no more preconceived notions than I did, they will get a lot more out of it.  I'm not knocking these amateur critics, because even the best, the Eberts and Kaels of the world, gave us nearly everything, before ever sitting down.

Now here's the part where I a called an elitist.  I don't consider many of my new found friends to be cinephiles.  I see them as the word I used to start the last sentence; movie buffs.  They seem to like nearly everything they see.  Especially in their favorite genre.  They praise the deepness of movies that aren't deep at all and miss out on the complexities of others, while boasting about the intricacies.  I feel that 99% of the people I know take everything in a movie at face value and never look into it's soul.  I recently watched a mediocre film called Mud, which was praised by the critics, but not one (professionals, mind you) touched on the real story of the movie. I had to find a message board to finally find someone who got it.  That to me is shocking, especially for a movie that at the time of release was garnering Oscar buzz.

Here is one thing that truly bothers me about people.  While anyone who is into film hates being told they didn't understand a film, whenever they say they didn't like it (my cross to bear is Shawshank Redemption), it does carry some weight.  Nowhere is this more evident in foreign and horror films.  Religious symbolism is one of the keys in many horror films and unless it's mapped our for most, it is lost.  It's one of the reasons I love the TV show Millennium.  Ironically, no Christian I know ever seemed to understand that the entire show was based on the Bible.  Down to the addresses and license plate numbers.  When Lost entered it's second season, I had friends proclaim they "thought" it was based on different philosophical views.  I hated the show and somewhat figured that out in episode 1, when the guy named Locke's views were of some famous philosopher whose name almost escaped me....oh yeah, John Locke!  This was when I truly realized that people, in general, don't get symbolism and they don't watch movies on the same level as I do.  I don't knock anyone for liking or disliking something, but when they missed the point, I need to realize they don't care for the medium like I do.  That is fine, we can't all obsess over the little things in every subject.

I recently spoke with some different people about different films.  Some of them, were quite adept at discussing the complexities of movies and some were more concerned what is on the surface.  I think of them as surfers, enjoying the scenery, knowing there is more, but better off not cluttering their minds with what lurks beneath.  Then there are those who will sit with me and dissect a single scene.  I remember taking a film class and there was scene in Touch of Evil, where the camera finds Orson Welles in a bar, as the camera begins to slide across the bar, it fixated on his back, never leaving it, capturing not only the his physical enormity, but his ego.  All in one brilliant panning shot. I spoke for nearly two minutes about this scene after the movie had finished and if memory serves me correctly, it's the first time we see the giant Welles.  No other member of the 30+ student class even remembered the scene.  This lead to many long talks with my professor, a fledgling director, who gave me a credit in his lone film.

I do not ever want anyone to sit down to a movie with thoughts about this or that running through their heads.  We're all subject to the effects of personal feelings playing into our views on film.  I was late to the game to see the Oscar winning The Artist.  Unlike most, I knew the star Jean Dujardin and knew of his comic background.  Almost everyone told me they laughed throughout the entire film.  Unlike them, I cried throughout most of it.  I was touched by the warmth, the sincerity and the truthful homage to a different time in cinema.  It moved me on a personal level, the realization that things change and our stubborn desire to keep the past alive is what sometimes nearly destroys us.  The film left me breathless and that, to me, is what it is all about.

My problem with film, if there is such a thing, is that I want everything from the experience and when the actors, the directors and everyone else involved isn't asking the same, I feel cheated.  If a movie is no deeper than what appears on the surface, the chances are, it isn't for me.  Like I said, I don't knock anyone for their opinions on film, but know that for some of us, what you just watched, wasn't the same as what we just watched.  I have always thought of the way I look at film to be similar to how an astronomer must look at the night's sky.  For the average person, the sight of a full moon has them staring up at the bright sky on wonderment, but for some of us, it's the night when the moon is but a sliver and all those magnificent stars, which are hidden by the moon's light, are revealed to our keen eyes.  If that comes off as being snobbish, so be it, but that is what I see when I look at that screen in a darkened room.