Thursday 31 May 2012

Movie Preview: Prometheus

PREVIEW: On June 8, 2012, the science fiction film Prometheus opens in North American, having opened on June 1st in England with the movie's world premiere on May 31st at Leicester Square in London. This is number five in the series of "Alien" movies and represents, according to reports, a prequel to the first 1979 film.

I am writing this in the evening of May 31, reading reviews in English newspapers by those who must have seen an advanced screening or attended the premiere. England is 6 hours ahead of me. Considering that the director, Ridley Scott, is responsible for two of the most famous science fiction films of all time, Alien and Blade Runner, I can see I am not the only one whose expectations are running high. (Did you know that Scott directed the famous 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial? - Wikipedia: 1984 (advertisement)) : click here for ad)

A Quick Refresher in Greek Mythology
In the briefest of explanations, Prometheus was the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. Zeus punished him by chaining him to a rock where an eagle ate his liver every day; Prometheus being immortal had his liver grow back each night. He was eventually freed by Hercules.

As an FYI, it is worth the read to go through the Wikipedia article on Prometheus. I, for one, not only refreshed my memory but learned things I had not known.

What is the connection between this Titan and the film? Play with fire, get your fingers burned? I'll leave out any spoiler alerts.

The Early Reviews
Since the movie opens in the U.K. on June 1, critics writing the day before had obviously been given a preview. Going through The Guardian, The Daily Mail, etc. paints the portrait of a visually spectacular film which reaches great heights but doesn't quite live up to Scott's two other classics. However after sifting through all the nitpicking in these reviews, I conclude the public is going to love the film. Hey, we're talking about Ridley Scott here. With a budget of $125 million, it is hard to believe he'd blow it and considering we've got the baddest-ass monster alien of all time, you can't really go wrong.

The Franchise
The original 1979 film was groundbreaking. It was definitely one of the all time great scare the bejesus out o' ya horror movies. The suspense was terrific but the idea of having something growing inside you certainly raised the level of shock up a notch or two. And of course, let's not forget H. R. Giger, the Swiss surrealist painter and sculptor who designed our favourite badass monster alien. I first saw Giger's work when he did the cover for the 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery by the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

While the original film was good, the sequels have had their ups and downs. James Cameron's Aliens was excellent and it is not often that number two is good. (Although, Cameron's Terminator 2 was arguably better that his first Terminator.) From there, my impression was that the series lost its way. Were these projects green lighted out of an effort to cash in on the name? I'll make a short mention of the two Alien vs. Predator films which were obviously done for profit and were panned by the critics but made substantial profits meaning the fans ate it up. As a FYI, the Wikipedia article quotes none other than James Cameron as saying he liked Alien Vs. Predator. Go figure.

The following is a recap of the series.

Alien (1979)
Budget: $11 million
Gross: $105 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Aliens (1986)
Budget: $18.5 million
Gross: $131 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Alien 3 (1992)
Budget: $50 million
Gross: $160 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 40%

Alien Resurrection (1997)
Budget: $70 million
Gross: $161 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%

Prometheus (2012)
Budget: $125 million
Gross: n/a; June 8, 2012 release in North America
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Final Word
What? You think there is a hope in hell that I am NOT going to see this? Wild horses couldn't keep me away. Ha! In order to "hold me over", I combed the Internet and found a number of interesting articles about the film and video clips from the film. And when I say video clips from the film, I don't just mean trailers but clips from the movie itself. For anybody looking forward to this up-coming "alien treat", I would suggest browsing through the references below and feast your eyes.

Note: I am sure any ratings from Rotten Tomatoes will fluctuate as more critics file their reviews.

Rotten Tomatoes: Prometheus: 89%
No consensus as of yet

Wikipedia: Prometheus (film)
Prometheus is a 2012 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. The film stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green and Charlize Theron. Set in the late 21st century, the story centers on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they follow a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth civilizations. Led to a distant world and an advanced civilization, the crew seeks the origins of humanity, but instead discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.

fan site: Prometheus
Prometheus movie news, information and community

fan site: Project Prometheus

Wikipedia: Alien (franchise)
The Alien film series is a science fiction horror film franchise, focusing on Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) and her battle with an extraterrestrial lifeform, commonly referred to as "the Alien". Produced by 20th Century Fox, the series started with the 1979 film Alien, which led to three movie sequels, as well as numerous books, comics and video game spinoffs.

Related to the franchise are the "Alien vs. Predator" films (Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), based on the related franchise which combines the Aliens with the Predators from the Predator film series.

Rotten Tomatoes: Alien (1979): 96%
A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.

Wikipedia: Alien (film)
Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. The film's title refers to its primary antagonist: a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature that stalks and kills the crew of a spaceship. Dan O'Bannon wrote the screenplay from a story by him and Ronald Shusett, drawing influence from previous works of science fiction and horror. The film was produced through Brandywine Productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox, with producers David Giler and Walter Hill making significant revisions and additions to the script. The titular Alien and its accompanying elements were designed by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, while concept artists Ron Cobb and Chris Foss designed the human aspects of the film.

Rotten Tomatoes: Aliens (1986): 100%
While Alien was a marvel of slow-building, atmospheric tension, Aliens packs a much more visceral punch, and features a typically strong performance from Sigourney Weaver.

Wikipedia: Aliens (film)
Aliens is a 1986 science fiction action film directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, William Hope, and Bill Paxton.
Screenplay by James Cameron
Story by James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill

Rotten Tomatoes: Alien 3 (1992): 40%
No consensus yet.

Wikipedia: Alien 3
Alien 3 (styled as Alien³) is a 1992 science fiction horror film, the third installment in the Alien franchise, and the debut of director David Fincher. It is a sequel to James Cameron's Aliens.
Alien 3 had a difficult production, with various screenwriters and directors getting involved in the project, and shooting even started without a finished script. The film was the big-budget debut of a young David Fincher, who was brought into the project very late in its development, after a proposed version written by Vincent Ward at the helm fell through. Fincher had little time to prepare, and the experience of making the film proved agonizing for him, as he had to endure incessant creative interference from the studio and had to shoot the film without having a definite script. The added weight was also to create a film worthy of the work of the two revered directors that had gone before him, James Cameron and Ridley Scott. Upon completion, the studio dismantled and reworked it without Fincher's consent, including releasing a teaser trailer that suggested the film would take place on Earth.

The film was released to mixed reviews. While not very successful at the United States box office, it earned over $100 million outside of North America.

Rotten Tomatoes: Alien Resurrection (1997): 55%
No consensus yet.

Wikipedia: Alien Resurrection
Alien Resurrection is a science fiction film released in 1997 by 20th Century Fox and the fourth installment in the Alien franchise.

Introducing David 8 -- Project Prometheus
Discover, explore and build better worlds with the new David 8 - brought to you by Weyland Industries and powered by Verizon FiOS.

Prometheus - Peter Weyland TED 2023
[An interesting clip from the movie, a speech by Peter Weyland at TED 2023.

T.E. Lawrence, eponymously of Arabia, but very much an Englishman, favored pinching a burning match between his fingers to put it out. When asked by his colleague, William Potter, to reveal his trick -- how is it he so effectively extinguished the flame without hurting himself whatsoever -- Lawrence just smiled and said, "The trick, Potter, is not minding it hurts."

The fire that danced at the end of that match was a gift from the Titan, Prometheus, a gift that he stole from the gods. When Prometheus was caught and brought to justice for his theft, the gods, well, you might say they overreacted a little. The poor man was tied to a rock as an eagle ripped through his belly and ate his liver over and over, day after day, ad infinitum. All because he gave us fire, our first true piece of technology: Fire.

100,000 BC: Stone tools.

4,000 BC: The wheel.

9th century AD: Gunpowder. Bit of a game-changer, that one.

19th century: Eureka! The light bulb!!

20th century: The automobile, television, nuclear weapons, space craft, Internet.

21st century: Biotech, nanotech, fusion and fission and M-theory -- and that was just the first decade.

We are now three months into the year of our Lord, 2023. At this moment in our civilization, we can create cybernetic individuals who, in just a few short years, will be completely indistinguishable from us. Which leads to an obvious conclusion: We are the gods now.

For those of you who know me, you will be aware by now that my ambition is unlimited. You know that I will settle for nothing short of greatness, or I will die trying.

For those of you who do not yet know me, allow me to introduce myself: My name is Peter Weyland. And if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to change the world.


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Tuesday 29 May 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black 3

A third of the way into the film, I asked myself why I had bothered to come. Two-thirds of way into the film, I was looking forward to it being over. In a fit of generosity, I will say it is okay but I'm afraid, for me at least, the novelty has worn off. This is the type of thing you see on a vacation family night; this is not something you shell out fifteen plus dollars to see even if it involves IMAX 3D.

I'm sure there are twenty year olds everywhere who are lapping this up like it's candy. However, when you're three times twenty years old and you have a life time of experiences involving Star Wars, Star Trek, The Matrix, and decades of comics, science fiction novels, etc., etc., you get bored three times as easily. I'm certain the film will make a tidy profit for the film company but this will be coming from a younger crowd, a new generation of fans. I wouldn't be recommending it to anybody I know.

I do have to laugh about deciding to go in the first place. I really enjoyed the first one and have forgotten how supposedly bad the second one was. After seeing the trailer, I built up my expectations based on the good memories of the wise cracking of Will Smith playing off of the sober, and I do mean sober, Tommy Lee Jones. Do trailers work in attracting people to the film? That idea was never more adequately demonstrated than by my presence in seat F12 right smack in the middle of the theatre decked out in a freshly cleaned pair of 3D glasses waiting for some monster alien to come out of the screen and tickle my funny bone. Literally. (If I really want an alien to jump out of the screen at me, I guess I'll have to wait until June 8 when Ridley Scott's reboot of the Alien franchise, Prometheus, arrives in theatres in North America.)

Men in Black (1997)
Budget: $90 million
Gross: $590 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Men in Black II (2002)
Budget: $140 million
Gross: $442 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%

Men in Black 3 (2012)
Budget: $220 million
Gross: $202 million (worldwide) as of May 28, 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%

Final Word
What do I know? Roger Ebert liked it. He gave it three stars out of four. Hmmm, I would have given it two. Admittedly though, it is technically a good piece of craftsmanship.

In the end, if you're a new fan, you'll probably enjoy it. If you're a diehard fan, well, how could you not see it? But for anybody else, I return to this being a rental if you're stuck in your vacation timeshare with the kids on a rainy day and have nothing better to do. If you're going to shell out fifteen or twenty bucks, I'd stop and consider any one of a number of good films, better films you have not yet seen and decide on investing 2 hours of your life as wisely as possible. No matter what, you ain't gettin' it back and I don't care how good that movie popcorn tastes.


Rotten Tomatoes: Men in Black III (2012): 67%
It isn't exactly a persuasive argument for the continuation of the franchise -- but Men in Black III is better than its predecessor and manages to exceed expectations, largely due to Josh Brolin's impressive performance.

Wikipedia: Men in Black 3
Men in Black 3 (stylized as MIB3) is a 2012 American 3D science fiction comedy film starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. This film is the sequel to the 2002 film Men in Black II released on May 25, 2012, ten years after its predecessor and fifteen years after the release of the original Men in Black. It also stars Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve and Jemaine Clement, with Barry Sonnenfeld returning as director, and Steven Spielberg returning as executive producer. The film is the third installment in the Men in Black film series which is based on the Malibu Comics series The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham.

Rotten Tomatoes: Men in Black (1997): 90%
Thanks to a smart script, spectacular set pieces, and charismatic performances from its leads, Men in Black is an entirely satisfying summer blockbuster hit.

Wikipedia: Men in Black (film)
Men in Black is a 1997 science fiction comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn and Tony Shalhoub. The film was based on the Men in Black comic book series by Lowell Cunningham, originally published by Marvel Comics.

Rotten Tomatoes: Men in Black II (2002): 39%
Lacking the freshness of the first movie, MIB 2 recycles elements from its predecessor with mixed results.

Wikipedia: Men in Black II
Men in Black II (stylized MIIB) is a 2002 science fiction action comedy starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The film also stars Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton and Rip Torn.

Roger Ebert.Com - May 23/2012
Men in Black III by Roger Ebert
Let me say that although I liked the first “MiB” movie, I wasn't particularly looking forward to this belated sequel. But I had fun. It has an ingenious plot, bizarre monsters, audacious cliff-hanging, and you know what? A closing scene that adds a new and sort of touching dimension to the characters of J and K.


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Monday 28 May 2012

The Geography of a Woman

This isn't mine. I tried to find the original author but to no avail. Nevertheless, this one is just too good to pass up. Enjoy.

(Image from Sodahead... with my apologies)

The Geography of a Woman

Between 18 and 22, a woman is like Africa. Half discovered, half wild, fertile and naturally Beautiful!

Between 23 and 30, a woman is like Europe. Well developed and open to trade, especially for someone of real value.

Between 31 and 35, a woman is like Spain, very hot, relaxed and convinced of her own beauty.

Between 36 and 40, a woman is like Greece, gently aging but still a warm and desirable place to visit.

Between 41 and 50, a woman is like Great Britain, with a glorious and all conquering past.

Between 51 and 60, a woman is like Israel, has been through war, doesn't make the same mistakes twice, takes care of business.

Between 61 and 70, a woman is like Canada, self-preserving, but open to meeting new people.

After 70, she becomes Tibet. Wildly beautiful, with a mysterious past and the wisdom of the ages. An adventurous spirit and a thirst for spiritual knowledge.

The Geography of a Man

Between 1 and 80, a man is like Iran...

ruled by nuts.

Some other one liners about the sexes

It's O.K. to laugh during sex ... just don't point !

Just because I have one doesn't mean I have to act like one.

Some of us learn from the mistakes of others; the rest of us have to be the others.

Women should not have children after 35. Really... 35 children are enough.

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

By the time you learn the rules of life, you're too old to play the game.

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

Why is it so hard for women to find men that are sensitive, caring, and good-looking? Because those men already have boyfriends.

By the time a man realises that his father was right, he has a son who thinks he's wrong.

Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

Does time fly when you're having sex or was it really just one minute?

My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I am right.

Children are natural mimics who act like their parents, despite every effort to teach them good manners.

Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.

You know you’ve reached middle age when your memories become more important to you than your dreams – Susan Delfino (Desperate Housewives)

Not quite enough? How about some other posts?

my blog: Funny quotes about marriage (and divorce)
I recently ran into some humorous and insightful quotes about marriage and divorce. As I chuckled while reading them, I couldn't help thinking of the quite serious question about why we do it. Do we really have no idea of what we're getting ourselves into?

my blog: Optimism: we are hardwired to ignore defeat
[We] can hear a success story like Mark Zuckerberg's of Facebook and imagine ourselves being rich one day and yet, upon hearing that the odds of divorce are almost 1 in 2, we can't imagine our own marriages ever failing.

Ya just gotta laugh. It beats sobbing uncontrollably. :-)


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Sunday 27 May 2012

Health: Life comes to a dead halt

How do you spell hell on Earth? P-a-i-n. What's a two word expression for pain? Pinched nerve. On Saturday, April 7, 2012, the long Easter weekend (Bad Saturday follows Good Friday?), I managed to pull a tendon out of place in my left shoulder, separate the two bones in my left forearm, the ulna and the radius, mess up both my left wrist and elbow and do some minor damage around the shoulder blade to my neck. I am now looking at months of healing which includes physiotherapy, keeping my shoulder taped up, both my wrist and elbow strapped and some support tapes on my left leg. I’m writing this as of week number seven. While I have now been back to work full days, my walking remains uncomfortable to the point where I restrict walking to going to my job and getting groceries. Taking a stroll around the block is still out of the question as it puts pressure on my upper body and my left shoulder doesn’t like it. Oh yeah, I am typing all this pretty much with one hand, my right hand.

I have said that if anybody could return me to the good health of Good Friday, just before Bad Saturday, I would pay them a grand. Oh hell, I'd pay them ten grand. My entire life has pretty much come to a dead halt as my health has become my number one priority and pain management has been my overriding concern.

And what was the cause of the worst physical trauma I have suffered in my entire life? Push-ups. If you are like me, it’s at this point your jaw drops and you exclaim, “What!?!” I’ve been doing push-ups for fifty years. How could this happen?

Doing a push-up means putting the flat of your hand on the floor. When you do that, you bend your hand back stretching the tendons in your wrist. Sometimes, in order to make a push-up a little harder, I would do them with my hands closer together. Here we arrive at the perfect storm: a day off, more than the usual number of sets, my age and the accumulation of time. However, while this part of the story is startling, what comes after turns out to be perplexing.

I had what I thought to be a good Saturday: lots of exercise done in sets throughout the day, clean the apartment, get groceries, catch up on some private matters with email, blogging and such. On Sunday, I felt some pain but thought slashed hope this was due to "muscle burn", the good type of sore you get after working out. On Monday, I knew I had done something; I knew I had hurt myself. The shooting pain in my forearm was very reminiscent of the RSI (repetitive strain injury) I had suffered about 7 years ago so I immediately thought this was the same thing. I visited my doctor and he tested me. I could move my left arm in any one of a number of positions he instructed me to and I never felt any pain specifically from these movements. Nevertheless, I was feeling this throbbing pain in my forearm and the occasional tingling in my fingers. The two of us discussed RSI and he concurred that it seemed to be the likely cause. The conclusion was to proceed as I did before: don't use the arm and stick with just the right hand to do all computer work.

In retrospect, it's at this point my judgement was not just off but clouded by pain. I had concluded I would have to be patient, grit my teeth and try to ignore the pain and let my body heal. Pain though had turned into a 24 hour a day chore. While manageable with ibuprofen, it was pretty much constant. Usually sitting at home and not moving around lessened the discomfort which at times gave me the wrong idea I was getting better.

Over a four week period, I went back to visit my doctor a total of three times. Each time the conclusion was the same. I could move my arm around without any pain however I was constantly feeling pain. Okay, not excruciating pain but more of the dull background throbbing type punctuated by moments of sharp pain in my forearm. What was the cause? Other than patience and ibuprofen, my only other medication was a mild anti-inflammatory drug. During this time, I didn't do very much at all. While I did my job, sort of, I was expending all of my energy dealing with pain. I had the attention span of a mayfly as I would sit at home at my work desk for a few minutes then stand up to pace while holding my arm and saying, "Ow! Ow! Ow!"

In week four, I decided to work from home all week to further convalesce by not moving around too much. I had noted that walking exacerbated the pain.

And so, on the Friday, feeling a little better, I decided to wash my duvet and sweep out my apartment. As I said, I didn't do much of anything for 4 weeks. These simple tasks did involve me using my left arm to some extent and I ended up paying for it with the weekend from hell. Pain shot up and my suspicions, which had been growing for over a week, seem to be true. This wasn't RSI; I had done something to myself more dramatic but what?

That Monday, I woke up at 4am in excruciating pain. I saw my doctor at 11am and he sent me for an x-ray. Now the idea was to discover whether or not I had a pinched nerve in my neck but we still seemed to be working from the idea this was RSI. With the x-ray done, I went back to the office however with a certain desperation to ask everyone and try anything to get to the bottom of this mysterious pain.

A colleague recommended a kinesiologist slash sports medicine specialist saying he was something of a miracle worker. I may have been sceptical but at this stage I was so desperate, I would have tried a shaman.

Within five minutes, this gentleman seemed to know exactly what my problem was. However and here is the part that stunned me, he didn't just tell me a theory, he actually demonstrated he was right.

Landon gave me some strength tests. This involved putting my arm in various positions and he would push against my arm asking me to resist. He tested my left and right arms and I could easily feel how my left was very weak in comparison with my right.

First off, he told me about the tendon in my shoulder that connects to the bicep in the arm and that it was out of place. Digging into my shoulder, he told me to hold my breath then he pulled. Oddly enough, I didn't feel any pain. He retested my strength by asking me to hold my arm straight out but behind me at a 45 degree angle then resist as he pushed down. My strength had shot up a thousand percent. Oh my God, reseating the tendon in the proper place in the shoulder had put the working of my arm almost back to normal.

He examined my forearm and explained the separation of the ulna and the radius and the impact of this injury on the elbow and the wrist. Borrowing a chiropractic technique, he used a spring-loaded device called an activator on my elbow and wrist. He held this little gadget against each of my joints and pulled the handle. This tensed a spring which then released suddenly and gave a small but noticeable jolt to my joints. Apparently this movement repeated six or seven times, can literally jiggle the bones to get them back into their proper position.

I have little or no experience or knowledge about sports injuries or medicine in general; I have "suffered" from outstanding good health all my life. My questioning of this kinesiologist told me that while the human body is capable of all sorts of healing, some traumas it can't correct and instead, begins to adjust to them. The body can't reseat a bone so it will adjust to the bone being out of place.

Once again, the kinesiologist tested my strength. He asked me to hold my thumb and my pinkie together and he tried to separate them. Once again, I could feel my strength had shot up a thousand percent. I was flabbergasted.

As he laid out my plan of recovery strapping up my elbow and my wrist and printing out instructions for some isometrics exercises, I was upset at having wasted 4 weeks doing nothing because of an incorrect diagnosis for which I was in part responsible. I wondered just what I would have done if I had not had the good fortune of a colleague at work recommending this gentleman. How long would I have been running around looking for the answer to my dilemma? Because I had wasted 4 weeks, because I had run around for four weeks with things out of place, I wanted to be double sure; no triple sure, I was properly managing my recovery and so immediately booked to come back to this physio clinic on an almost daily basis.

Pinched Nerve: 24 hours of sheer, utter hell
While the above injuries were enough, it would seem the injuries extended into my shoulder all the way to my neck. This caused inflammation and the conjecture was that the pain I was feeling wasn't necessarily from my injuries per se but from a slightly pinched nerve in my neck. (Landon proved this by having me put my neck into certain positions and noting how the tingling in my left fingers increased.) One day after seeing the kinesiologist, my four weeks of neglect or misdiagnosis came to a head with 24 hours of absolute hell. For some inexplicable reason, my level of pain went through the roof. I spent the entire night pacing up and down in my apartment holding my arm and going, "Ow! Ow! Ow!" I would have gone to emergency but after calling a health service hot line, I realised there was nobody to deal with the cause of my problem. I'd sit around for hours waiting for help and in the end, somebody would merely fill me full of pain medication. Consequently, I waited it out until the following day so I could see somebody who was capable of doing something.

Question: How do you know you're really sick?

Answer: You're not bored.

Yep, you've got your head stuck in the toilet or your level of agony is nine point five on the Richter scale and you are not in the least bit thinking of watching TV, reading a book or looking at a magazine. Your brain is completely overwhelmed by messages coming in from all parts of your body saying, "I'm not happy" and it hasn't got a single second to be thinking, "There's nothing to do. I'm bored."

At 9am, I started making phone calls. Keep in mind that I am in so much pain; I am desperate to try anything to alleviate my suffering. I had heard over the years of those who suffer from chronic pain and I began to wonder how they could possibly function at all. The pain is so distracting, you can't think. I still wonder how I managed to patiently converse with anyone while the voice in my head was screaming, "Gee-sus H kay rist!!!" If somebody had told me I would live the rest of my life with that level of chronic pain, I would have told them to shoot me on the spot.

At 10:15am, I spent an hour with a physiotherapist. I'm sure she is a nice lady but I went in with a level of pain of 85 out of a hundred and walked out with a level of pain of 85 out of a hundred. Massaging my shoulders, putting electrodes on my neck and acupuncture were all curious techniques for supposedly reducing pain but they didn't work one iota. While she massaged my neck I told her that under different circumstances, what she was doing would be pleasant but she wasn't doing anything to alleviate my suffering.

At 1pm I visited my family doctor. After telling him of what the kinesiologist had said and done and how the level of pain was off the charts, he managed to immediately get me an hour with a chiropractor. While this gentleman's technique was different, I walked out of the session with the same level of pain.

Conversations I had later with other people gave me some insight into how the body deals with pain. The brain can literally be overwhelmed by pain and shut it down. I began to wonder if the reason why I ofttimes thought I was feeling better as the day wore on wasn't because the pain went down but because my brain progressively shut it out.

Conversations I had later led me to believe I had overlooked the technique of icing my neck and shoulder to reduce inflammation. Surrounding tissues can put pressure on the nerve fibres and cause all sorts of pain. However, what's odd about this so-called pinched nerve is that you may not feel the pain where the nerve is actually pinched but elsewhere in the body. As I said, putting my neck in certain positions would increase the tingling in the fingers of my left hand.

Self-diagnosis: I'm an idiot
Because all my symptoms were very reminiscent of RSI (repetitive strain injury), I thought that's what I had. Because I could actually move my arm around without pain, I didn't think and my doctor didn't think there was anything else wrong. How influential was I in convincing my family doctor to go with a diagnosis of RSI instead of looking further?

Now that I've talked with the kinesiologist, I am now wondering if this RSI of 7 years ago wasn't RSI but an injury similar to this one. Over the past weeks, I have experienced some aches and pains in my right arm which makes me think I have probably injured my right arm but to a far lesser extent. After all, I am right handed and my right arm is stronger than my left so it stands to reason if anything was going to go first it would be the weaker arm, my left. I had the kinesiologist examine my right arm but he couldn't come to a definitive conclusion.

What if my colleague had not told me of this kinesiologist?
I don't want to think about this. I have no idea how much I would have bounced around from one expert to another before anybody managed to zero in on the actual problem. My family doctor didn't clue in. A physiotherapist didn't seem conversant with my problem. The chiropractor focused on what "he" thought was the issue. Only this kinesiologist, one expert out of four, immediately grasped what the cause of the problem was and had a plan of action. Why?

A discussion with my colleague revealed that this kinesiologist used to work in sports. He worked with professional athletes where injury meant doing what's necessary from a practical point of view to get them back in the game as quickly as possible. While I use the term kinesiologist, my colleague said this guy has borrowed from different sources: a little chiropractic technique, some physiotherapy and yes, kinesiology. He searches for the cause of the problem rather than focusing on the effect.

Lessons Learned
What have I gotten out of this so far? I have discussed what happened with several people. I have talked with others who have visited this kinesiologist. I have talked about the idea of each of us dealing with our own health.

Health is everything
The old adage is true. Without health you have nothing, absolutely nothing. It doesn't matter if you've got wealth, fame or success. Without health you can't enjoy anything even the simple things like taking a walk around the block. (I miss that.)

The buck stops here: I am responsible for me
I am the consumer. I must educate myself so I know what's going on. If I want to buy a car, I cannot, I should not rely on somebody else to make the decision for me. I must study cars in general, the various brands specifically and inform myself of all associated issues like warranty, service and financing.

The same is true for health care. I must become informed and knowledgeable. I must be prepared to intelligently discuss my health with a professional and I should not blindly accept whatever they may say. If I don't like the level of service for my car, I need to take it to another garage.

Family doctor = pain management
My doctor is a generalist; he is not a specialist. I would hope that his generalised knowledge would see him sending me off to the appropriate specialist for a more in-depth analysis but if I realise that pain management is probably his frontline defence against health issues, I may find myself masking the cause of my problem as opposed to finding it.

I must push but in order to push, I must be knowledgeable. Every year, I have an annual physical and cover the broader issues (see references below): my prostate and the dreaded DRE, a regular colonoscopy, macular degeneration and lutein supplements, Vitamin D, focal dystonia, diet, etc. I have now decided to make regular visits to this kinesiologist and his physiotherapy clinic for a different perspective on my physical health and my exercise routines.

The thigh bone is connected to the hip bone
During one of my visits to the clinic, I started asking questions about everything and one of the physiotherapists, Isaac got to talking about me jogging. We did some strength tests with me standing in various positions. He noticed my left arm was weak when I stood with my left foot forward.

Isaac discovered I had a bone out of place in my left ankle. He got it back in place and retested my strength. I could feel my strength shoot up a thousand percent. Amazing. This returns to the idea that if the body can't "fix" something, it will adjust to the injury but here injury doesn't necessarily mean something completely debilitating. For several years I had noted that during jogging I would something get a "kink" in my left ankle. I would have the same feeling you get when you misstep and twist your ankle, like you had sprained it. However, if I slowed down jogging, shook my foot and moved it around in a circular motion, I could always make the feeling go away. In other words, I hadn't really sprained my ankle; it was merely a temporary feeling of having sprained my ankle. Now I'm wondering if this was caused by this out of place bone in my ankle.

I'm not twenty years old. We may debate if I can take the same punishment and whether I can heal as fast or even if I am as flexible and limber. Whatever the case, this is a wake-up call to not blindly continue to do what I may have been doing without a problem out of dumb luck.

Landon's suggestion was for me to get push-up bars. This device consists of an upside down U. The two ends go on the floor and I grab a hold of the cross piece. This way my wrist in kept in alignment with my forearm and I am not bending my hand back stretching the tendon in my wrist. As soon as I am better and can attempt a push-up, I am certainly investing in that. A push-up is a wonderful exercise and I would hate to give them up.

Final Word
Get up. Have a coffee. Plan my day: work, jogging, exercise, get groceries, go to the movies, think about what to do during the summer, think about what to do for vacation. In other words, get on with the rest of my life.

Get up. Wince. Take an ibuprofen. Have a coffee. Take an anti-inflammatory drug. Strap up the wrist. Strap up the elbow. Check the bandages on the shoulder and the leg; replace if necessary. Plan my day: move as little as possible. Try to be responsible enough to do a few isometric exercises. Realise groceries are low and start gritting my teeth about having to walk the six blocks, yes the six measly blocks, to the store. Other than physiotherapy and possibly work, I do not leave my apartment as it is still uncomfortable to walk. Besides, after a half block the fingers of my left hand start tingling and my forearm aches so I must hold my arm up in an odd position against my chest to reduce the pain. In other words, life has come to a dead halt. Life has become about health. Life is focused on healing.

There is no doubt about it; this is the worst physical trauma I have experienced in my life. Things are just humming along hunky dory when poof! It is all taken away in the twinkling of an eye. This is the end of week number seven and I am no longer taking ibuprofen on a regular basis. I am creaking around but instead of pain per se, I am feeling discomfort. Although I must be careful to not jump the gun. Once in a while a sudden twist or turn pulls something, causes some pain and makes me wince. I have managed to return to work but I am moving slowly. A week ago I did walk a mile to see the move The Avengers but other than groceries, the doctor and physio, that's the farthest I've gone for any recreational activity in 7 weeks.

Am I lucky? There are so many questions to be answered. How long this will take to heal? Will the tingling in my fingers eventually disappear altogether? Do I have nerve damage? Will I be able to get back to the level of physical fitness I had before? Am I lucky? I once knew a guy whose car was broadsided. He spent two years in a body cast. Two years!!!

I have already consulted with this kinesiologist about my entire exercise routine. I can't afford to have my life stop dead in its tracks! I don't want to ever again make such a horrible mistake and have to pay for it in weeks or months. I am going to agonize over what I did or didn't do to cause this problem. I am going to agonize over what I did or didn't do to properly handle this problem. Whatever the case, I am certainly going to do my utmost to ensure this never happens again.

Health is truly everything.


Wikipedia: Perfect Storm
A "perfect storm" is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically. The term is also used to describe an actual phemonenon that happens to occur in such a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude.

Wikipedia: Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve occurs when pressure is placed on a nerve, usually from swelling due to an injury or pregnancy. Nerve damage or pinched nerves are usually accompanied by pain, numbness, weakness, or paralysis. Patients may feel these symptoms in areas far from the actual site of damage, a phenomenon called referred pain. Referred pain occurs because when a nerve is damaged, signalling is defective from all parts of the area from which the nerve receives input, not just the site of the damage.

Wikipedia: Push-up
A push-up, or in British English a press-up, is a common calisthenics exercise performed in a prone position by raising and lowering the body using the arms. Push-ups exercise the pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids, with ancillary benefits to the rest of the deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis and the midsection as a whole. Push-ups are a basic exercise used in civilian athletic training or physical education and commonly in military physical training.

Wikipedia: Knuckle push-ups
Another variation is to perform pushups on the knuckles of the fist, rather than with palms of the hands on the floor. This method is also commonly used in martial arts, such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do, and may be used in boxing training while wearing boxing gloves.

The intent, in addition to building strength and conditioning, is to toughen the knuckles, wrist, and forearm in the punching position. This variation also reduces the amount of strain in the wrist, compared to the typical "palms on floor" approach, and so it is sometimes used by those with wrist injuries. Such practitioners will usually perform their knuckle pushups on a padded floor or a rolled-up towel, unlike martial artists, who may do bare-knuckle pushups on hard floors.

Wikipedia: Activator technique
The Activator Method Chiropractic Technique is a chiropractic treatment method and device created by Dr. Arlan W. Fuhr as an alternative to manual manipulation of the spine and extremities. The device is categorized as a mechanical force manual assisted (MFMA) instrument which is generally regarded as a low-force chiropractic treatment technique. Activator Methods International, Ltd. (AMI) has been providing chiropractic care, resources and training since 1967. Founded on the principles of clinical research, AMI’s major contribution to chiropractic care is discovery and development of the Activator Method Chiropractic Technique and the associated Activator Adjusting Instruments.

Ya gotta take care of yourself!
Living alone: the dangers of RSI
Jack Layton and Our Prostates
Gettin' old, man boobs and Vladimir Putin
An apple a day keeps the doctor at bay
Don't worry, be happy. You'll be healthier and live longer.
Codependency: we're in this together
Aspirin: good for what doesn't ail you
Vitamin D: the sunshine vitamin
Barb Tarbox (and my mother): bigger warnings on cigarettes
Macular Degenration: a problem I can't see
Where the sun don't shine: my colonoscopy
My Prostate: something near and dear to me
F*** Cancer
Living alone: the dangers of BPPV
Focal Dystonia: focal what?
Run for your lives! Literally.
Alcoholism: I'll drink to that!
Hot Dogs: Worth their weight in salt... literally!


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Thursday 24 May 2012

Miss Representation: You can't be what you can't see

Wikipedia: Miss Representation
Miss Representation is a 2011 American documentary film written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. It explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women. The film premiered in the documentary competition at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

The film interweaves stories from teenage girls with provocative interviews from the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Lisa Ling, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Rosario Dawson, Dr. Jackson Katz, Dr. Jean Kilbourne, and Gloria Steinem to give an inside look at the media and its message. The film’s motto, “You can't be what you can't see,” underscores an implicit message that young women need and want positive role models, and that the media has thus far neglected its unique opportunity to provide them. The film includes a social action campaign to address change in policy, education and call for socially responsible business.

official web site: Miss Representation Org: a call-to-action
The film Miss Representation exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality. It’s time to break that cycle of mistruths.

In response we created, a call-to-action campaign that seeks to empower women and girls to challenge limiting media labels in order to realize their potential.

We are uniting individuals around a common, meaningful goal to spark millions of small actions that ultimately lead to a cross-generational movement to eradicate gender stereotypes and create lasting cultural and sociological change.

Uploaded by amillan2004 on Oct 13, 2011
Miss Representation Extended Trailer
An overlook at the Hegemonic society that utilizes the media as a tool to dictate gender expression. This sets into motion the subordination of women in our society and that value that they hold as individuals politically and socially.

BlogHer - May 23/2012
Miss Mare's Comments on Miss Representation by Mary Kathleen
[About the film:] A lot of the information and statistics were not really new to me. As a social worker, I have had several classes on women's studies, gender studies and human sexuality. It did bring the topic back to the forefront for me, however. When it comes to women in the media, I am most bothered by how women seem to be portrayed as sexual objects. There is always this need to be sexy, pretty, thin and desirable to men and this is often placed above all else. I am also very much bothered by how easily women are labeled as "crazy" or "bitchy" or "nags." This is especially seen when women are running for public office, as was shown in the film with reference to Hillary Clinton and others. And in terms of politics, it is no surprise that women are barely represented in our political system.

Straight.Com - Apr 17/2012
Projecting Change: Miss Representation is a long-overdue punch to the gut by Miranda Nelson
The statistics will make you gasp (did you know 15 percent of sexual assault victims are under 12 years of age?) and the heartbreaking voice-overs will elicit tears. All in all, Miss Representation is an excellent overview of this under-the-radar epidemic perpetuated by the mainstream media.

Indiewire - Oct 18/2011
Review: 'Miss Representation' Exposes An Ugly Truth That Needs To Be Seen by Katie Walsh
It’s no shock to anyone who has turned on the TV, read a magazine, spied a billboard or surfed the internet that media representations of women are problematic at best. At worst, they are a both a symptom and cause of a troubled society reaching a tipping point in its relationship with sex and violence onscreen.

The initial question about images of women in the media leads us down a rabbit hole that indicts the advertising industry for governing the content of the TV shows as vehicles for advertisements, which need to create insecurity in people so they buy the products, so the companies can keep buying ads on the networks, which have been deregulated by politicians, who refuse to go after the media conglomerates because they need them to get elected over the female politicians, who might actually get something done in this country, which would be bad, because CAPITALISM! You follow that?

Final Word
"You've come a long way, baby"? It would seem that you still have a long way to go. Certainly Rush Limbaugh's tirade against Sandra Fluke was a startling reminder that things remain the same. (see my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U)

In the above trailer for the movie, I note this exchange from The O'Reilly Factor:

Question: You get a woman in the Oval Office, the most powerful person in the world... What's the downside?

Answer: You mean besides the PMS and the mood swings?

Just how do you spell double U tee eff? I said that Rush Limbaugh was merely the tip of the iceberg and this dialogue, part of mainstream news media no less, underlines that gender equality may be nothing more than a thin veneer of political correctness over the true heart of America. Gosh Rush, tell me what you really think.

Do we really know what's going on? Does a goldfish know it's living in a fish bowl? Are we so caught up in our own culture, we may be accepting instead of questioning? We may be accepting what's shoved in front of us instead of questioning if that's what we want or whether that's what should be. Baby, ya gotta a long way to go.


Facebook: Miss Representation
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” - Alice Walker

Rotten Tomatoes: Miss Representation
On DVD: Feb 20/2012

Wikipedia: Virginia Slims
Virginia Slims is a brand of cigarette manufactured by Altria Group (formerly Phillip Morris Companies). The brand was introduced in 1968 and marketed to young professional women using the slogan "You've come a long way, baby." Some media watch groups considered this campaign to be responsible for a rapid increase in smoking among teenage girls. Later campaigns have used the slogans, "It's a woman thing," in the 1990s, and "Find your voice." A report by the Surgeon General of the United States has interpreted these marketing strategies as attempting to link smoking "to women's freedom, emancipation, and empowerment." This report also tied the increase of smoking among teenage girls to rises in sales of Virginia Slims and other "niche" brands marketed directly to women.

my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U
Recently, the world has been atwitter on Twitter and other social media commenting left, right and centre about one Rush Hudson Limbaugh. Of course, it is easy to pile on by calling him an anal orifice or a Neanderthal or a meany... (I consult my notes) oops, that's a f**kin' meany... however I can't help feeling there is more, much more not just to this particular story, but to what the story represents. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Women's Issues
How could I not weigh in on this one?
Saturday, April 28, 2012: Unite Against The War On Women
An open letter to (older) women about body image
Slutwalk: Support our sluts!
Justice Robert Dewar: rape is inconsiderate
Men aren't violent and I'll kill you if you disagree
The Great Debate: seat up or seat down?
Honour Killings: new term, old idea
Marc Lépine: in remembrance of December 6, 1989
Because I Am a Girl
The Face of Anti-Abortionists: Neal Horsley
Anti-Abortionists: Murder by proxy
Spousal Support
Cruelty knows no bounds
Abortion: My final word on unwanted pregnancy
Abortion: If we make it illegal, the problem will go away
God Hates Women
In Praise of Women

Uploaded by esalaj7 on Apr 14, 2010
Media's Effect on Beauty.


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Wednesday 23 May 2012

The La's: There She Goes

There she goes
There she goes again
Racing through my brain
And I just can't contain, this feeling that remains

There she blows
There she blows again
Pulsing through my vein
And I just can't contain, this feeling that remains

There she goes
There she goes again
She calls my name, pulls my train
And no-one else can heal my pain
But I just can't can't contain, this feeling that remains

There she goes
There she goes again
Chasing down my lane
And I just can't contain, this feeling that remains

There she goes
There she goes
There she goes


Uploaded on Jun 20, 2008 by polydorclassics's channel

Wikipedia: There She Goes
"There She Goes" is a song written by British singer/guitarist Lee Mavers and recorded first by Mavers' band, The La's.

Music video
There are two music videos for this song. The first music video which was released in 1988 was recorded by a camcorder. It shows the band performing the song in an alleyway, a hill or mountaintop and some footage of their concerts is shown. The band are also seen in a park. The video ends with the drum logo being shown. (click here: 1988 video YouTube -- shown above)

The second music video which was released in 1990 was a more professional one. It was recorded with a TV camera. It shows the band performing in a street and a town and in a back street with footage of a woman in her 20's or 30's in the video. They are also shown performing with city buildings behind them later revealed to be Los Angeles due to the U.S. Bank Tower clearly visible. The lead guitarist, Peter Camell and drummer Neil Mavers are revealed to be the two new members. The video ends with the woman's face being shown. (click here: 1990 video Dailymotion)

Wikipedia: The La's (album)
The La's, the self titled album by The La's, was the only studio release from the Liverpudlian four piece, released in 1990, but it earned them a place in the history books of British music and inspired a generation of bands, from Oasis to The Charlatans. It included "There She Goes", the group's biggest hit and one of the most memorable anthems of the early '90s, and "Timeless Melody". A deluxe edition of The La's was released on 7 April 2008.

Wikipedia: The La's
The La's are an English rock band from Liverpool, originally active from the mid-1980s to early 1990s. Fronted by singer, songwriter and guitarist Lee Mavers, the group is most famous for their hit single "There She Goes".


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Tuesday 22 May 2012

The Avengers, Adoption and an Asgardian Firestorm

I'm sure we have all at one time or another committed a faux pas, a momentary lapse of good judgement. However, I'm also sure that said faux pas was committed in front of a small group of family or friends. An apology is delivered sincerely and immediately and we have quickly defused a potentially ugly situation. But what if you were given a budget of two hundred and twenty million dollars and your lapse of good judgement found itself forever committed to film and distributed across the planet in what critics have lauded with a 93% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes? Oh great, you'll be offending people for years to come and future generations will be likewise calling you a dunderhead.

In the recently released film "The Avengers", wunderkind Joss Whedon did double duty as screenwriter and director to bring us the following memorable slash questionable scene.

Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.

Thor: Have care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason but he is of Asgard. And he's my brother.

Black Widow: He killed 80 people in 2 days.

Thor: He's adopted?

Avengers - Thor "He's Adopted" scene
Published on May 18, 2012 by amarevivereridere

I recently saw the film (my blog: Movie Review: The Avengers) however two days before seeing the film, I ran across criticism of the above line about adoption. I had forgotten about it until the moment I saw the scene for myself. It is interesting how this one line consisting of what? 5 seconds out of a complete running time of 143 minutes (2 hours and 23 minutes) has generated quite an on-line discussion from Facebook to the major news outlets like MSNBC and the New York Times. I'm sure that Mr. Whedon has had more than one uncomfortable moment sitting with representatives of both Marvel Studios and Walt Disney listening to the litany of complaints from the public over his insensitivity. Gosh Joss, I bet you'd pay ten grand right about now to edit that one out of the film.

When I first heard the line, there were only a few titters in the theatre. I had read that some audiences had laughed quite a bit at this line but mine didn't. Actually, I have to admit to being perplexed by the line. I didn't laugh as I couldn't figure out what it meant. Did Thor mean because Loki wasn't of the family, Loki killed 80 people or did Thor mean that if Loki had been of the family he would have killed 180 people?

In reviewing the above clip of the scene, I clearly see that Thor is demanding others to treat Loki with respect because Loki is Thor's brother. However as soon as Black Widow points out that Loki has done something bad, Thor attempts to distance himself from his brother by explaining he's adopted. What's funny in any of this? While I can now see how any mention of adoption may be up for interpretation and anybody could be potentially offended, I now see that the joke Joss Whedon was after had nothing to do with adoption.

Thor is being a tad pompous about his royal blood demanding that everyone treat a member of his family with respect. But when confronted with the nefarious actions of this member of his family, Thor immediately disavows his own brother. How Judas Iscariot can you get? On top of it, in trying to disavow his own brother he stoops in desperation to the most despicable ways of doing so. Blood or no blood, Loki is Thor's brother and Thor ain't gunna escape that one!

I am convinced that this was what Joss Whedon had originally meant in the script. Think about it. Somebody behaves like a snob then gets shown up that they are not so superior. That idea can make for a funny scene. Unfortunately, it would seem that others missed that interpretation. Joss Whedon wasn't saying that adopted children are evil or have more potential for evil than birth children. Joss Whedon wasn't suggesting that there is anything to distinguish birth children from adopted children. He was trying to show Thor as being pompous then being knocked down a peg.

But, but, but this was not the way to do it. Joss Whedon, I would hazard a guess, got so focused on his joke he missed how his joke could be open to interpretation. A good joke is clear, concise and comprehensible. A good joke doesn't need to be explained. A good joke isn't open to interpretation.

The Substitution Game
Andrea Poe of The Washington Times wrote about this story by explaining how she likes to play the substitution game. To verify if a line is acceptable or not, she substitutes the words "Jewish" or "African American" for anything she's not sure about and sees whether the line still works. (The Avengers attack on adopted children is mean and unfunny by Andrea Poe)

The Black Widow character says, "[Loki] killed 80 people in two days." Then Thor, Loki's brother, replies, "He's Jewish."

Ugh…awkward, isn’t it? Doesn’t seem quite so funny.

OK, let’s try again:

The Black Widow character says, "[Loki] killed 80 people in two days." Then Thor, Loki's brother, replies, "He's African American."

Thud. Not funny, right?

Ms. Poe goes on to point out that no studio would ever have allowed either of the above two versions. They certainly don't pass the smell test, do they?

Final Word
I love my sister dearly. We have spent all of her 48 years together minus the first 9 months of her life. She's adopted. But I have never, ever once in my entire life introduced her as my adopted sister. She's my sister period. You will never, ever catch me disavowing my sister like Thor did or in any way for that matter. She's my sister come hell or high water. (Sorry sis, you ain't gettin' rid of me that easy! Ha ha ha.)

Joss Whedon has quite the career: the creator of such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly. However, unlike me who makes his faux pas in front of friends who don't have their cellphones recording my stupidity for posterity, Mr. Whedon has slipped his into a major motion picture seen by zillions of people including parents supervising their children, sometimes their adopted children. Joss, I think I know what you meant but next time maybe we can come up with a better way of expressing it. You're a talented guy. I know you can write for kids as well as adults.


Wikipedia: Joss Whedon
Joseph Hill "Joss" Whedon (born June 23, 1964) is an American screenwriter, executive producer, director, comic book writer, occasional composer and actor, founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-creator of Bellwether Pictures. He is best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), Angel (1999–2004), Firefly (2002) and Dollhouse (2009–2010), as well as the short film Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008). Whedon co-wrote and produced the horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012), and wrote and directed the film adaptation of Marvel's The Avengers (2012).

The Backfire - May 6/2012
Joss Whedon's Avengers: Thor, Loki, and Adoption by Eric Teall
I'd really like to thank Joss and company for including the "[Loki's] adopted" joke in the Avengers movie. It was really fun having my [adopted] daughter in tears in the theater while the audience laughed at the fact that one of the big heroes basically said that Loki wasn't really part of his family because he's adopted.

The Backfire - May 15/2012
The Avengers and Adoption: My Official Take by Eric Teall
Amanda said: Epic post! Thank you for writing this. If you don't mind my asking, are you adopted?
Eric Teall said: I'm not, but my children are.

MSNBC - May 11/2012
Was 'Avengers' joke cruel to adoption community? by Courtney Garcia
Disney’s “The Avengers” has earned almost universally positive reviews and made $200 million in its first weekend. Yet for some in the adoption community, a joke in the film goes too far.
Matthew Rodriguez, a writer for the Sundance Channel and an "Avengers" fan tweeted after the film, “My mind is still blown over how MARVEL-ous The Avengers was ... although I DID NOT APPRECIATE THAT ADOPTION JOKE, THOR.”

Facebook: Entertainment
Should Marvel apologize for the joke, or are people being too sensitive?
Eddy Jose: People are too darn sensitive, its a joke

Dorothy Abernathy: Normally I'd say, don't be so sensitive, but because this could effect children who are struggling with a sense of belonging, maybe Disney/Marvel could do something besides apologize. Maybe a PSA where Superman talks about being adopted or something. Some kind of short that's aimed at the youngest Avenger fans,that we might want to be a little more sensitive too.

NY Times - May 16/2012
That ‘He’s Adopted’ One-Liner in ‘The Avengers’? Not Funny. By Jessica Crowell
I have never walked out of a movie before. But last weekend, I walked out of “The Avengers.”
As an adoptee and comic book fan, I sat in the dark theater stunned. I thought of the 12- and 13-year-olds whom I had just seen file into the theater with their parents. Were any of them adopted children as well? Were any of the adults, like me, a member of an adoptive family? Was everyone laughing, or did it just sound like everyone? Shaken, I turned to my boyfriend and politely told him I wanted to leave.

The Washington Times - May 17/2012
The Avengers attack on adopted children is mean and unfunny by Andrea Poe
I like to do something I call “the substitution game,” whereby if I want to check whether or not a line is acceptable I simple swap out whatever word I have questions about with either the words “Jewish” or “African American.” If the line sits well using both of these, the line passes the test.


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Monday 21 May 2012

Dear JPMorgan: The speed limit is 60 mph

The bank J PMorgan Chase has lost two billion dollars. To paraphrase Jamie Dimon, current chairman, president, and chief executive officer of the bank, "Oops, sorry. It won't happen again." Am I having a flashback to 2008?

The United States, no the entire world, went through the biggest financial crisis since The Wall Street Crash of 1929. Now, just three plus years later, where are we? Little has been done to legislate reforms in the banking industry and both Wall Street executives and Conservative politicians have been taking the stance that free markets should remain free and be self-regulating. I'm sure that anyone in a democratic country would vote for freedom and anybody who believes in capitalism would say self-regulation is the way for business to separate the wheat from the chaff. Only the big boys get to swim in the deep end of the pool.

However, there is theory and then there is reality and are we collectively, or at least some of us, falling into the trap the author Rita Mae Brown warned us about? "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Paul Krugman is an American economist with credentials coming out the ol' wazoo including 20 books, over 200 scholarly articles in professional journals and more than 750 columns about economic and political issues for The New York Times. Oh yeah, he also won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences (informally the Nobel Prize in Economics) for the year 2008. (The prize included about $1.4 million.) In other words, ignoring my irreverence, here is a man who knows what the hell he's talking about.

In Krugman's op-ed piece "Dimon’s Déjà Vu Debacle" (NY Times - May 20/12), the author starts with:

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why we need strong financial regulation — especially in an era saturated with pro-business, pro-market propaganda. So we should always be grateful when someone makes the case for regulation more compelling and easier to understand.

He goes on to dissect both business as in Jamie Dimon and politics as in Mitt Romney. The pro-business, pro-market mantra of these two representatives of no regulation movement fails to take into consideration one important aspect of the big banks: it's not their money; it's your money. If anybody, any company wants to bet at the roulette table, who are you to stop them? It's a free country. But what if they're playing at the roulette wheel with your money? Does the expression "free country" mean that somebody other than you has the right to play with your money?

But a bank is a bank is a company so where exactly is "your money"? The deposits in the bank are federally insured, that is, guaranteed by the U. S. taxpayer. Yep, they're guaranteed by you. Just where did all that money come from to stop the zombie apocalypse in 2008? Your tax dollars at work.

Let's return to Krugman. About Jamie Dimon:

The point, again, is that an institution like JPMorgan — a too-big-to-fail bank, not to mention a bank whose deposits are already guaranteed by U.S. taxpayers — shouldn’t be engaged in this kind of speculative investment at all.

And about Mitt Romney:

[If] Mr. Romney wins [the 2012 election]... he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, and in general has made it clear that he would do everything in his power to set us up for another financial crisis.

Freedom and Anarchy
I'm sure the two words are distinctly different in everyone's mind, but just how close are the concepts?

Wiktionary: freedom
1. The state of being free, of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
2. The lack of a specific constraint, or of constraints in general; a state of being free, unconstrained.

Wiktionary: anarchy
1. The state of a society being without authoritarians or a governing body.
2. Anarchism; the political theory that a community is best organized by the voluntary cooperation of individuals, rather than by a government, which is regarded as being coercive by nature.

I can drive anywhere I want if I follow posted speed limits and stop at red lights. The fact that I can drive anywhere I want represents freedom. The fact that all of us (hopefully) obey the speed limit and red lights means we do NOT have anarchy.

I feel good driving around knowing that some fool isn't going to be racing or driving like a maniac. If they want to risk their own life, that's their choice, they are free to do so but I object to them risking my life.

I feel good driving through a green light knowing (hoping?) everybody coming the other way is going to stop at the red light and let me pass. That's a terrific rule so we can all get along, so that we all can drive where we want. Who wants anarchy?

Regulations are a good thing
Every time I get in an elevator, I look up and there is a safety certificate stating the date of the last inspection. I get a warm fuzzy feeling that when the doors close, I am not going to plummet to the basement. Hats off to regulations which make it mandatory to regularly maintain elevators and to verify the quality of that maintenance with regular inspections. Is anybody going to argue with this?

The odd thing about all these discussions is the ability of anyone to properly connect the dots. I fully understand my elevator plummeting into the basement and I would concur wholeheartedly with any regulation which would prevent anybody from being negligent about my life, yes my life. But do I understand the big picture implications of a Jamie Dimon or a Mitt Romney telling me freedom is good and regulations curb freedom? Yes, I'm all for freedom but somehow I'm not so partial to plummeting to my death in a runaway elevator. Yes I'm for freedom but wait a minute, did my bank just go bankrupt and can no longer give me my money back? Who's minding the store?

The BP Oil Spill
Cost-cutting measures on the part of BP and its partners along and the lack of a system to ensure well safety lead to what remains the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. (Wikipedia; New York Times) Anybody against government regulations now? Or have we already forgotten about this catastrophe?

I quote from the final report of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling:

The record shows that without effective government oversight, the offshore oil and gas industry will not adequately reduce the risk of accidents, nor prepare effectively to respond in emergencies. However, government oversight, alone, cannot reduce those risks to the full extent possible. Government oversight (see Chapter 9) must be accompanied by the oil and gas industry’s internal reinvention: sweeping reforms that accomplish no less than a fundamental transformation of its safety culture. (Wikipedia: Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Finding of fault)

Final Word
If it was that easy, it would be done by now.

I hear the polarization in the political dialogue. Right or left. Liberal or conservative. Democrat or Republican. If it was that easy, it would be done by now.

I, for one, do not want to get into an elevator and subsequently plummet to my death. Likewise I don't want to put my money in a bank and have somebody else riskily invest it in what is the equivalent of gambling. When the government tells me to drive 60 mph, it is not telling me where to go. It is not taking away my freedom; it is merely saying that I stand a better chance of getting where I want to go at 60 then at 100. It doesn't want to stop me from going where I want; it actually wants to see me get there alive and uninjured.

If the government better controls the banking industry, there is a better chance checks and balances will prevent individuals from partaking in risky behaviour. As I said in the beginning, if somebody wants to gamble with their money, well, this is a free country, they are free to do so. But they should not be allowed to gamble with other people's money. Hell, I don't want them gambling with my money!

Oh I hear you say, "It's not my money." Think again. JPMorgan is a federally regulated bank that benefits from depositors insurance. That insurance comes from the government and where does the government get its money? Hel-lo Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer!


Wikipedia: Paul Krugman
Paul Robin Krugman (born February 28, 1953) is an American economist, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. In 2008, Krugman won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences (informally the Nobel Prize in Economics) for his contributions to New Trade Theory and New Economic Geography. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, the prize was given for Krugman's work explaining the patterns of international trade and the geographic concentration of wealth, by examining the impact of economies of scale and of consumer preferences for diverse goods and services.

Krugman is known in academia for his work on international economics (including trade theory, economic geography, and international finance), liquidity traps and currency crises. He is the 17th most widely cited economist in the world today and is ranked among the most influential academic thinkers in the US.

As of 2008, Krugman has written 20 books and has published over 200 scholarly articles in professional journals and edited volumes. He has also written more than 750 columns dealing with current economic and political issues for The New York Times.

He also writes on various topics ranging from income distribution to international economics. Krugman considers himself a liberal, calling one of his books and his New York Times blog "The Conscience of a Liberal". His commentary has attracted considerable comment and criticism.

NY Times - May 20/2012
Dimon’s Déjà Vu Debacle by Paul Krugman
Sometimes it’s hard to explain why we need strong financial regulation — especially in an era saturated with pro-business, pro-market propaganda. So we should always be grateful when someone makes the case for regulation more compelling and easier to understand. And this week, that means offering a special shout-out to two men: Jamie Dimon and Mitt Romney.

NY Times - May 18/2012
Win Some, Lose Some by Paul Krugman
Is it possible that I have misjudged Mitt Romney?

My take has always been that he’s a smart guy who also happens to be both ambitious and completely amoral; he decided that his career can best be advanced by pandering to the crazies of the right, and will say anything to that end.

More and more, however, he has been coming out with statements suggesting that he is, in fact, a dangerous fool.

TPM - May 16/2012
Romney Defends JPMorgan After $2 Billion Loss (VIDEO) by Brian Beutler
A larger loss could have fallen to the taxpayer because as a federally regulated bank, JPMorgan benefits from depositors insurance. The as-yet unimplemented Volcker Rule in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law is meant to prevent federally backstopped banks from making the kinds of risky bets JPMorgan took. Romney would repeal that law.

Wikipedia: JPMorgan Chase Multibillion-dollar Trading Loss May, 2012
In April 2012, hedge fund insiders became aware that the market in credit default swaps was possibly being affected by the activities of Bruno Iksil, a trader for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and referred to as "the London Whale" in reference to the huge positions he was taking. Heavy opposing bets to his positions are known to have been made by traders, including another branch of JPMorgan, who purchased the derivatives offered by JPMorgan in such high volume. Early reports were denied and minimized by the firm in an attempt to minimize exposure. Major losses, $2 billion, were reported by the firm in May, 2012 in relationship to these trades. The disclosure, which resulted in headlines in the media, did not disclose the exact nature of the trading involved, which remained in progress as of May 16, 2012 as J.P. Morgan's losses mount and other traders seek to profit or avoid losses resulting from J.P. Morgan's positions. The trades are possibly related to CDX IG 9, a credit default swap index based on the default risk of major U.S. corporations that has been described as a "derivative of a derivative". On the company's emergency conference call, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said the strategy was "flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed, and poorly monitored". The episode is being investigated by the Federal Reserve, the SEC, and the FBI.

Wikipedia: Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Pub.L. 111-203, H.R. 4173) is a federal statute in the United States that was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 21, 2010. The Act implements financial regulatory reform sponsored by the Democratically controlled 111th United States Congress and the Obama administration. Passed as a response to the late-2000s recession, the Act brought the most significant changes to financial regulation in the United States since the regulatory reform that followed the Great Depression, representing a significant change in the American financial regulatory environment affecting all Federal financial regulatory agencies and almost every aspect of the nation's financial services industry. As with other major financial reforms, some legal and financial scholars on both sides of the political spectrum have criticized the law, arguing on the one hand that the reforms were insufficient to prevent another financial crisis or additional "bail outs" of financial institutions, and on the other hand that the reforms went too far and would unduly restrict the ability of banks and other financial institutions to make loans.

Wikipedia: Volcker Rule
The Volcker Rule is a specific section of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act originally proposed by American economist and former United States Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to restrict United States banks from making certain kinds of speculative investments that do not benefit their customers. Volcker argued that such speculative activity played a key role in the financial crisis of 2007–2010. The rule is often referred to as a ban on proprietary trading by commercial banks, whereby deposits are used to trade on the bank's own accounts, although a number of exceptions to this ban were included in the Dodd-Frank law. The rule's provisions are scheduled to be implemented as a part of Dodd-Frank on July 21, 2012, with preceding ramifications.


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