District 9 (****)

From Wikipedia

Apartheid—meaning separateness in Afrikaans (which is cognate to the English apart and -hood)—was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.

Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times, but apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into racial groups (black, white, coloured, and Indian), and residential areas were segregated by means of forced removals. From 1958, Blacks were deprived of their citizenship, legally becoming citizens of one of ten tribally based self-governing homelands or bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government segregated education, medical care, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of whites.

Good movies about Aliens expose some of the worse traits and weaknesses in humans. They also highlight how we have redeeming qualities. Movies that move people to tears are a lot more common than movies that make you feel uncomfortable. I dislike violence towards children of any form, even when it is just simply alluded to. District 9 is a very violent movie and not for people with weak stomachs, certainly not for children.

I have huge issues with shaky camera work. I understand the realism that it tries to convey, but that was one of my biggest concerns going into this movie. I have really bad motion sickness when it comes to movie and video games with crappy graphics. I discovered how bad it can be from a movie after watching The Blair Witch project. It protected me watching Cloverfield, but this movie had a trailer that made me curious enough to want to watch it. So when some friends put a movie and dinner night together and when they offered this as one of the movie choices we jumped at the opportunity.

I am not a Peter Jackson fanboy. I did love LoTR but disliked the horrible mess that King Kong was. District 9 more than makes up for it and really becomes a feather on his cap on making things that are not real seem very believable.

The movie begins looking more like a documentary. The main character is someone that you cannot quite like or dislike. It almost feels like he is being set up to die any time. It is hard to tell when or if there is a transition from movie style to documentary and back. It feels voyeuristic at moments but then in a second you are immersed into the story.

The movie is social and political commentary at its best, but the most important commentary in my opinion is about humanity. If you like history you will see highlighted many of the atrocities that humanity has committed on itself, the kicker for me was how easily justifiable this becomes once humanity is removed from the equation. It is sad that still in this day and age so many topics from the genocides in Africa to immigration people so easily remove humanity from the debate.

Our ill fated “hero” begins partaking on the removal of aliens from District 9 to their new more concentration camp like location, District 10. The aliens just showed up one day, and after neither doom nor salvation came from their mother ship we broke in to find out malnourished people that became earths refugees.

Everything that is wrong with people “relocation” in various forms in our world was highlighted during this part of the movie. From the dubious legality of “property” to the arrogance of talking down to people that do not understand “our” system. It was specially graphic to see that killing other beings was a matter of stepping over the bodies and picking up the pieces of your fallen comrades.

Then a single event highlighted by stupidity by the main character sends everything in motion. From that point forward the supense and action don’t slow down until the end.

The acting which at first seemed very weak ends up being the right tone for everything. We do sound that stupid when discussing things we either don’t care about or don’t quite understand. As humans we are lazy enough to be spoon fed information and take it as reality until the moment it affects us directly. While there will be no Oscar performances here, it fit the movie perfectly and did not detract from the story.

The CGI work was some of the most amazing I have ever seen. I never once thought of CGI the whole time I was watching the movie because everything was a working part. One small spoiler is that after watching this movie a Mech Commander movie HAS TO BE MADE! We now have the technology, somebody make it happen.

This movie is so good and has so many different elements from psychology, international affairs to history that I could probably put a curriculum together and teach a whole semester just based on everything it talks about. Not everyone is going to love this movie because it is very grotesque at times, but I highly recommend it. You might want to learn a thing or two about human history after, if anything it will make you think about how “human” we are.

Food vs Service

Most people laugh at the phrase “No soup for you” and immediately remember The Soup Nazi Seinfeld episode. All joking aside, how far do you let something go into the bad service side if your food is some of the best?

One of my favorite places to eat is a semi fast food place. They are one of the places that has allowed me to cut down on my meat consumption for a while now. I go there at least once a week, but I have struggled with the bad service for a while. The owner is the person that greets you and takes your order most of the time, he know me, knows what I order and even goes as far as to ask me how much it is going to be because he knows I have the amount memorized. The food is prepared well every single time and I have yet to have a bad meal from the place.

The food equation in my head for price is simple. If it is something I can prepare at home in less than 30 minutes and the ingredients are 50% what the cost of the meal is, I think it is a good deal and I am not too overcritical. My favorite dish from this place is something that I think I can imitate or get very close to, but I have not tried yet. I have been trying to guess one of the exact ingredients but since my ear surgery my taste buds are still just enough off that I don’t have as discerning a palate as I used to have.

Strike one against this place came when the owner had a case of mood swings. He was always friendly and greeted me and one day acted very Soup Nazi like when I wanted to replace and ingredient that I had before, heck the food is not pre-made, and also told me they had one of the side dishes only to find out they did not have anymore when I picked up the food. I figured, bad day, and I let it go. He then surprised me the week following by saying that he tried the dish with my ingredient replacement to see how it tasted and said he loved it.

Strike two came a couple of weeks after. Most of the people actually making the food and serving the tables speaks Spanish, heck one of them even has my last name which made me easy to remember. Every time I show up they say hi, and one day the place was empty and I had a conversation with one of the cooks. The conversation was probably just a couple of minutes but the owner got supper upset, possibly because the guy has limited English so we spoke in Spanish and maybe thought we were talking about him. So I let it go again. The food is still too tasty and well priced at this point not to continue giving them my business.

Strike three just made me put them in the, probably not going to go back as often list… or maybe not even at all. I call this place about once a week for take out, he knows my order and I very rarely get something extra. I called during probably a busy time and I was put on hold. No big deal, it happens. He left the phone off the hook and I could hear him taking orders in the background.

Service logic to me dictates that if someone calls for a phone order and you have a line, you ask for the person to hold and GET HELP if you are overwhelmed. Even if you are swamped with people out the door, come back after you finish the first order and tell the caller it will be a while. Nope, the dude left the phone unhooked for a while. I hung up and try to call again to see if a new ring or light might make him remember he had someone “on hold” with no luck. Eventually I got to his restaurant and proceeded to drive past it and hit the fast food joint down the street.

To some this might not be horrible service, but I have been eating there consistently even when the place was a ghost town at the beginning of the year. I don’t think I deserve special treatment, but to just forget that someone is on the phone without answer is something that not even pizza joints do very often anymore. If your restaurant advertises that you do take out and give out menus promoting it, then make sure you at least have two lines.

So do you keep a balance between food and service? I know we talked about a similar subject before when we discussed tipping, and it brought out some opposite views. Do you value service at all, or does good food override any horrible service?

Consequences

“Every person has free choice. Free to obey or disobey the Natural Laws. Your choice determines the consequences. Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.”
- Alfred A. Montapert

In a conversation with a friend we talked about respecting reality. People sometimes don’t take into account actions and consequences and prefer to act without thinking. I fall into that category many times and like that fact that I am honest about my feelings. When it comes to actions I am a lot more careful because I think of the consequences.

Burglaries happen all over the world. Listening to the radio the other day I heard of a guy in New York that has had over 30 bikes stolen, and how commit ed he is to still riding. It reminded me of when I was a child and someone tried to steal a kids bike in our neighborhood. The guy was quickly stopped after the screams of “ladron” (thief) alerted some guys a block away. It seems like the whole neighborhood took turns beating the crap out of this dude, I vividly remember an old lady bringing a wooden chair and going WWE on the guy. I am sure the guy never tried to steal any bikes in our neighborhood after that.

The monkey story is a piece of writing that even if purely fiction made me think about consequences. The main character in the story wants to fight a monkey, and if just that does not make you want to read the story, lets just summarize that the guy thinks that “fighting was the purest form of physical expression.” As an adult I have only been in an actual fight (outside of martial arts tournaments) once.

Biggie (aka Aaron) is a good friend from back in Chicago. We have lived many good times and they have often involved the consumption of alcohol. We met while we both were going to college and worked together as ushers at a movie theater. We have been friends since and I became close to both his family and his childhood friends. LOL, I could write a blog just about our friendship, but before I get off topic his family are the ones that taught me how to play monopoly and could not beat me even cheating… good times.

Tony, one of our mutual friends’ house was close to where there was going to be a firework show for the 4th. So we decided to do a little drinking with our regular group of friends and Tony invited a couple of people from the new dealership where he had just gotten a job as a mechanic. One of the guys showed up on an 80′s style Mustang GT that sounded like it had been worked on heavily because of the way it sounded. He surprised me because when he saw that the driveway was already full of cars he decided the best option was the lawn almost perpendicular to my car. Because of the proximity to the fireworks other people were doing the lawn thing and people were migrating towards the near by park.

The guy seemed to have been drinking most of the day and was there with his girlfriend and a younger cousin who was a teenager. Most of us were in our early twenties at the time and the dude was probably in his late twenties or early thirties. We had fun drinking and watching fireworks until an argument started between the dude and his girlfriend. They left right before the end of the fireworks and the rest of us started to migrate back towards Tony’s house.

We could hear the argument had gotten a lot more heated and the poor girl pleading with the dude to please not drive so drunk. The girl was at the window of the vehicle parked very close to mine. The engine roared and the dude started to back the car but miscalculated the turn and caught his girlfriend’s leg between my car and his. Thankfully both of the car’s body gave in and her leg was not crushed but she was definitely trapped between the vehicles. Everyone started banging on the car for him to stop and he finally moved forward but there was damage to both of the cars. He knew he had damaged my car, but I was more worried about the girl and her safety. Drunken dude was more worried about what I was going to tell the police so he ran towards me because I was dumb enough to see if his girlfriend was ok.

Even though he probably could have pummeled me pretty good if sober, he was debilitated by the unreal amount of alcohol he had consumed. Using my Karate Kid knowledge I stopped his punches and was able to hold both of his arms long enough for a Aaron to wrestle him off me. It seemed his anger was now directed at me because I somehow took his girlfriend side on the fight or because my car was not damaged by his but rather by his girlfriend’s leg. His logic had some holes probably when sober, but alcohol made his decision so much more clear.

I never pressed charges because his girlfriend pleaded with me over the dudes previous record and how me calling the cops was going to send him to jail. Alcohol takes away inhibitions, it does not make people angry, it just removes the filter. I don’t know if a beat down would have made him change his ways, but obviously violence was his way to cope with frustration.

Physical violence is a serious thing when it comes to domestic abuse, but is it something that makes communities safer? man feel more masculine? Are you ok with any kind of physical violence, or is it something that just should not exist in a modern society?

Interview – Mike Piatek-Jimenez

One of the coolest things about friendship is being able to admire the people that surround you. Mike and I became fast friends while I was living in Michigan. We bonded by our mutual love of movies and computer programming. He is now living the “dream” by being the owner of the software firm Gaucho Software developing apps for Macs and iPhones. Mike and his wife Katrina have become one of my closest friends as an adult, and our love for good restaurants and interesting conversation have made their visits to Kansas City as much of a vacation for me as it has been for them. When I heard that through the Mount Pleasant Rotary Club Mike was going to spend a month in Thailand I could not wait to hear about the experience and see the pictures. The more I heard and read about the trip, the more I wanted to interview him to share some of what he learned while being in such a different culture. Some of what he found out while in this trip might truly surprise you.

Logtar:Had Thailand been in your radar at all before the opportunity to do a cultural exchange there?
Mike: Not really. Of course I had heard of the country, but I didn’t know much about its people or their culture.
L: Had you ever thought about visiting places for the cultural experience rather than just a relaxing vacation? if so what was your top pick?
M: Whenever my wife and I go on vacations, we always try to learn about the culture of the place we are visiting. We’ve traveled to different countries in the Caribbean, for example, and instead of hanging out on the beach all day, we will usually try to do things the locals would do. Things like go to plays, or attend fairs or festivals in a park, etc. If I had to visit a country just to learn more about the culture, Ireland and Poland would probably be my top picks, as those are the countries where my family is from.
L: How many different cities did you get to visit while in Thailand?
Read more…

Kids and Money

Can the love of a child be bought?

We have seen it in movies and some of us even in real life. Divorced parents try to win the affection of their kids by giving them gifts. I have seen parents try to outspend each other. Most kids are smart enough, or become smart to what is going on and take advantage of the situation. While some people do read gifts as love, that is not how every single child works.

My parent’s credentials are more of that of a substitute. I was a full time step parent for over 2 years, one of them without much visitation to the other household. I also grew up around a lot of kids and was always involved indirectly in some kind of parenting. I have learned a lot of things about kids and how hard the job of a parent is, also how the word full time does not even cover it.

Today’s topic is one that has troubled me for quite some time. How early do kids become aware of money? How important is it for them to become aware of it?

While it is very important for kids to know the value of money and how hard it is to earn it regardless of the economic status of the parents, I think how money is handled and how that is presented to the kids is crucial to their formation as responsible adults. Two key factors are very important in my eyes. Beyond teaching the kid the value of money without making them afraid or guilty about enjoying life, the most important is to never judge people in terms of money.

A long time ago I had to deal with a situation with kids and money. I had never been compared to someone else in terms of money or the gifts that were being presented to a child. The situation escalated when a child not much older than 6 said to me, “What did you get me? I know you make a lot of money.” I was pretty furious about the situation because those are not the words of a child. That was my assumption there and it was once again proven to be true not to long ago.

Parents need to be very careful about what they say to their children. Yes, I was probably one of the people earning the most in that circle of people at the time* so I don’t doubt that a conversation between adults could have included how much I was making. It has always bothered me that most people’s first question when meeting people; and I even fall pray to this, is what do you do for a living. Later I found out that there was a lot of comparison going on between who got what gifts and how much did they cost. I find that pretty disgusting but time has taught me that money is a big factor for some people when it comes to relationships.

I am not saying that money should not be a factor. I am very aware that most people do not want to live in a paycheck to paycheck anxiety and want to be with someone that has the same financial goals as them. I am with a woman that would be with me even if we lived in a cardboard box but we were together, but I also know that it is rare and not for everyone and it does not make the people that like comfort evil or gold diggers.

Children should not be included in money conversations when it comes to evaluating other people. People should have have a price tag attached to them. I certainly love giving the kids close to me gifts, but I think my niece will in the future remember and probably value a lot more the book that Bea and I got her for her birthday, rather than the Hanna Montana paraphernalia that we also got her. Daniel took some little gifts to their kids after his visit from Bea and I, his wife was so thankful for them and shared their joy of the simple gifts that had more sentimental value than price tag. I am sad that I have encountered the complete opposite in some other people. I am proud that both my sister and Daniel are raising her kids to be grateful little people and teaching them the importance of money without making other people “Santa Claus.”

* I was consulting and traveling which is a combination for earning more than your peers with similar skills, but at the same time its a sacrifice in other areas. I will probably never earn that much money again, but I am totally happy with that.

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