Happy Almost Independence Day

Happy Almost Independence Day

It is Saturday the 3rd of July*, which in Utah can only mean one thing… fireworks! Yes in the state of Utah any holiday that falls on a Sunday, save Christmas, is celebrated by the state on the Saturday before. It’s kind of a catch twenty-two though. (I would have included Easter in that, but Easter is a Sunday holiday so it’s not like it’s going to get celebrated in a different day for some reason.)

At one end of the spectrum it’s the power of the people controlling and choosing when to celebrate… at least it would be if there was a vote. I know it’s what the majority would vote for, which might be the rational for there not being a vote. At least I really don’t remember a vote, and democracy though assumption is not a government that I’m terribly supportive of. Hence part two of the equation, the perpetual and relentless lack of the concept, separation of church and state. I’m not saying that it’s like Vatican city… ok so maybe I’m saying it’s a little like that. There is a very strong church based control of the laws that get passed in this state.

It is getting better though, we even get the occasional alternate lifestyle supporter, and once we even had an a politician in office in Salt Lake City itself who was openly active in that alternative lifestyle. You’d never see it happen in the rural towns, still Utah is not a completely dark age state. Oddly though, the liquor stores are all run by the state. So all of these hard core religious politicians want to make sure they have control of the alcohol in this state, even though they are against the consumption of alcohol. I have heard, which may or may not be true, that it is the taxes on alcohol that helps pay for the schools, which to me means that if you want smarter children in the state if Utah, you really need to drink more. In fact I think for the rest of the wine parties we have each month I am going to start them off with a toast to the education of Utah’s children. It will be in good spirits and everyone will be drinking with intent and purpose.

I don’t believe there are any dry counties in Utah, so I don’t feel we are quite that archaic. I guess when it comes to Utah all I can do is quote the immortal words of one Bob Wiley from ‘What about Bob?’ fame and say, “Baby steps…” We’ll get there eventually, maybe not in my lifetime, but eventually. Until then I’ll keep celebrating Independence Day on the 3rd instead of the 4th during those years that the 4th falls on a Sunday. Likewise, I’ll continuing ignoring all state hosted New Years Eve celebrations that take place on the 30th of January instead of the 31st because the 31st falls on a Sunday… because that is just plain stupid and in my book utter sacrilege.

One of the things I learned today while out and about, going to a late movie during the same time that the official city run firework shows are going off is the perfect time to catch a movie. You can arrive five minutes after the movie has started and still get your choice of almost any seat in the house. We even caught a few colorful fireballs filling the evening sky on the drive home as well. It was like our own little double feature.

One thing about July in Utah is it is unofficially the official firework month. They legalize fireworks for the month of July for two different patriotic celebrations. The first is the 4th, which is the birthday party for the US. The second is the 24th, which is the day Utah officially become a state, hence the birthday of Utah. On both days there are firework celebrations and the state feels compelled to let the people of Utah light off fireworks during these three weeks without any legal repercussion… as long as you don’t set anything or anyone on fire that is. Granted these are only the state sanctioned and legal fireworks that are allowed, which are sold at the various firework booths that start popping up in grocery story parking lots throughout the month of July. For the more adventurous folks, they will drive about an hour out of their way to cross the state border over in to Wyoming were they can purchase illegal fireworks and bring them home… and quite probably

I have mixed feelings about fireworks, mainly because it’s a very literal variation of the old adage “burning your money”, which I’d like to think I’m against. Lighting off fireworks is more like lighting a hundred dollar bill on fire and watching it burn over an hour long interval, but this really only happens once or twice a year. Still, fireworks seem like a bad investment that I’m just not that interested in making.

Besides, I know that a portion of my state taxes are always going to help fund the state hosted firework shows each year, which does make me a little grumpy if I stop to think about it. Let say that the average firework show costs a hundred-thousand dollars (which is a made-up figure that I have no way of knowing is even remotely accurate). Ironically enough, well, hypocritically enough anyway, I always find it comical that it is illegal for any civilian to own or shoot off any illegal fireworks, which are the big ones that shoot into the air and make big colorful explosions in the sky. Yet, it is perfectly acceptable for the city council to bring in and light off thousands of these illegal fireworks each year. I guess that’s politics for you. The main thing I get grumbley about is that we could use that money to help people in the state that are living below the poverty line, that are homeless and hungry. Instead, we light all that money on fire so people can “Ooooh” and “Ahhhh” for about an hour.

Still, the little person inside me still remembers all of the fun I had based on bad decisions in the name of a good time. Things like holding firecrackers with my hands and throwing them into the air before the fuse ran out and they would explode. My favorite was the Roman candle wars we would have. Roman candles were twelve to fourteen inch long fireworks, about a half inch in diameter. One end had a stake that you would stick into the ground and then you’d light the fuse at the other end and ten to twelve little fireballs would shoot out of the end, burning a different color. They didn’t last that long and would burn out before it hit the ground, still you got ten of those in a row. My brothers and I would actually hold those things in our hands and then run around the back yard trying to hit each other with these baby fireballs. My dad just laughed at us and stayed close to the hose.

There is something hypnotic and inspiring about fireworks. I see it in the eyes of my niece and nephew when they watch them go off and fill the night’s sky with fiery colors. It’s kind of like watching them dream while they are awake. And there is my firework conundrum… inspiring and invoking imagination in the youth, and a huge waste of funds that could help those in need. Hopefully someday the state will find a happy medium. Until then I’ll try to keep this conundrum to myself and try to spend time with the niece and nephew when the fireworks go off and continue to donate to the food bank when I can. I guess that’s my happy medium for the time being. I hope everyone enjoyed, their 4th festivities, even if they happened to happen on the 3rd.

What are your thoughts on firework shows?

Image Source:
Google Images, key words: Utah fireworks, what about Bob, firework tent, watching fireworks, kids watching fireworks.

*I realize that I officially posted this on the 4th, but it was written on the 3rd. Sometimes things take a bit longer to post than I initially expected. Personally I blame hay fever and allergies, but the allergy medicine did play its role as well.

Happy Almost Independence Day

I Beg to Differ

I have, from time to time been so compelled, moved, and motivated to pass on cash to the occasional beggar. It was during my summer in San Francisco that learned the errors of making eye contact with strangers on the street and of carrying any cash on me when I left the house. Responding to them is something that takes a little getting use too if you’ve had no experience talking to these people. I remember one day, while on my way to work, a younger guy, close to my age, was lounging on a bench and yelled out to me, “You got a dollar?”

“I’m fine thanks.” I replied. I was aware of my error the second I let it out. Trust me when I tell you that beggars don’t appreciate you replying to their begging in the same way you would when responding to a sales associate who approaches you and asks if there is anything they can help you find.

“I the one that’s not fine!” the man said back to me, puffing out his chest, but making no effort to leave the bench. He kept yelling after me as I continued to walk to work, but I ignored what he was saying. I do remember thinking that if I could get a job in the overpriced city of San Francisco, I’m pretty sure he could too. At this point I started laughing. I’m not sure if everyone experiences this, but for me all it took was a summer in San Francisco surrounded a sea of beggars for me to actually utter the phrase, “Get a job hippie.” and mean it. Times they were a changing.

I say beggar because there is a very distinct difference between being homeless and being a beggar. You can have plenty of homeless people that beg, but when it comes to begging for a living, well, it’s a living, one that can enable some of your more proficient beggars an income that exceeds $100,000 a year. My biggest gripe is that I really can’t tell the difference, unless of course you happen to see them changing for work.

It was during my last trip to Vegas a few weeks back where I saw this rear opportunity of seeing a professional beggar out of his natural habitat and in the wild… dressing up, actually dressing down, getting ready for work. It was the last night in town and Angela and I were with friends and on our way to dinner when we stopped at a red traffic light. I notice a little supped up Honda pull past us and a guy jumped out of the front passenger side and walked to the corner. As the light turned green we rolled past the intersection there was the guy who gotten out of the car, holding some cardboard sign about being hungry, or trying to get enough cash to get a bus ticket home to his little kid, or something like that specifically devised to pull at ones heart-strings so they will be more apt to give a dollar.

The thing was he was holding the sign between his legs while he was changing shirts. He had one nice clean shirt that was resting over a guardrail while he was putting on a very nasty looking t-shirt that had a few holes in it. I mean talk about a gutsy fraud. Then again the first group of cars was the one that got to see this rare metamorphosis in progress. All subsequent groups would only see a professional beggar passing as a homeless person in need. It made me a little sad because essentially what you are doing when you give a professional beggar a dollar is tipping a lazy person for being a bad actor.

I’m all for helping the homeless. It’s just a bit of a struggle to figure out who’s homeless and who’s pretending to be homeless. So I donate to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters or offer a few dollars to people who are at those places. I figure that the pretend homeless won’t be going to places that those in need gather at for meals, support, and a nights rest.

If you are of the disposition of giving a beggar some cash, try making it an even exchange. It was something I picked up in San Francisco, and it takes only one word… “Why?” When someone walks up to you and just asks for change and you simply give it to them, it seems a little one sided. So when people would start approaching me, asking for cash, I’d ask them, “Why?” It caught some off guard, but others were professionals and were ready at a moment’s notice.

I’d just sit back and listen to the story of why they needed the money. Some stories took about a minute to get through and were the equivalent to the signs that lazy beggars hold up on street corners. Some stories would last close to fifteen minutes. Once they were done with the story I’d tip them based on the how good I thought the story was. That way I was encouraging and donating to the imagination and storytelling ability of the person instead of just giving them some change with no even exchange on my part. I was much happier to donate to these performers when I started getting, well, a performance.

One of my favorite ones was from an ‘ex-military pilot’ who had been discharged after telling people about a UFO sighting he witnessed and was ordered to keep to himself. He spent a good ten minutes telling me all about the sighting and how he loved to fly his jet. The explained further that he had come to town to meet with his old commander about possibly getting his job back. Things were going well at the meeting until he got a priority call from his expecting wife. She was in labor and told him to get home as soon as possible. He was trying to get bus fare so he could get back to his wife and new baby. It was much more involved than that, but you get the basic idea. I gave him four dollars for that one. It took him about 20 minutes to get through it, and I felt like I was giving him over minimum wage for the time he’d given me. It wasn’t a great story, good but not great, it was quite entertaining though. All in all, it seemed like a rather fair exchange, and I feel a lot better about these donations now.

I do hope that in the event that I come across someone that is truly homeless and I take them for a beggar that they feel sharing a story is a little more like working for the money instead of just begging, and that they appreciate that. All in all, it’s a tricky situation to decipher. I hope some of this helps you the next time you choose to make one of these types of donations. As a general rule of thumb I stick to, if you are donating because you are being guilted into it, keep your money. If you truly want to help or want to tip a stranger for a story they just shared with you, I say go for it.

If you’ve need exposed to them, what are some of the stories beggars have told you?

Image Source:
Google Images, key words: begging, get a job hippie, helping the homeless, and UFO story.

Happy Almost Independence Day

Texting and Junk

At the last wine party, with travel schedules, short notices, kids, and existing plans the wine party held a smaller gathering than usual. On a groovy note though, we did have my cousin join us for the first time, which I had not seen in probably around 10 years. Now one of the many things I enjoy about the wine parties is the endless collection of conversational oddities that people bring with them and share at the party each month. It was during the last wine party that my cousin brought up an epidemic that is spreading and affecting women across the world.

There are a few prerequisites that must be met in order for a woman to fall victim to this epidemic. The first thing that is required is a cell phone. Although, not any cell phone will do. I am referring to a cell phone with texting capabilities in which the owner of the cell phone can receive pictures via text.

Now there are people who would assume that this relates to all people who are equipped with a cell phone, and I would agree were I not one of the freaks out there that has an abrasion to texts. It’s not that I disagree with the concept of texting in general. I just disagree with the concept of me receiving and sending text messages. In fact my personal abrasion to the texting phenomena resulted in me contacting my cell phone provider and rearranging my phone to block all texts from my phone, both incoming and outgoing.

Sure it might sound a little archaic, but by that simple choice alone I am one of the most polite cell phone owning humans on the planet. Hey, I understand that the way people are communicating is changing. I have even heard from some parents that texting is the only way they are able to communicate with their teenagers. Personally I think this is a result of poor choices in parenting and they are letting themselves get sucked into a myth about texting being a gateway of communication between parents and teenagers that the cell phone companies have released on the internet as a way to boot cell phone sales. Parents are beginning to believe that they need to get their kid a cell phone with texting so they can talk to their kid. Even if you remove the conspiracy theory of that statement, shame on you for taking the lazy way out and given up on traditional spoken conversation, replacing it with bad grammar, nonexistent punctuation, and the use of the endless anagrams for words because people are too lazy to spell it out… I mean seriously, wtf?

In my experience, texting breeds rudeness, but because its texting, people fail to comprehend that they are being rude when texting or simply checking an incoming text while in the middle of a conversation. Yes, there are times and places where I can see how it is a useful tool. My problem is that I see texting as a tool that is turning people into tools without them realizing it.

I accept that texting is here and will be around for a while until something comes along that will replace it. Until then, and because this behavior is a relatively new addition to the human social dynamic wouldn’t you think that there should be texting etiquette classes? I think the class would break down to the following rule:
If you are having a conversation with an actual human, don’t text to someone else in the middle of your conversation or read texts you receive during the a fore mentioned conversation with said “real person.”
Appendix 1: Texting a third party is acceptable if it relates to contacting a third party that is being invited to the conversation.
Appendix 2: Checking received texts is acceptable if the situation is explained to the other “real person” in the conversation that you are expecting an important call or text, prior to engaging into a real conversation.

I don’t care if it could be the baby sitter with an emergency about the kids. You know what happened back in the day when something would happen while the parents were away? The baby sitter would drive your behind to the hospital, of if she couldn’t drive she would call her mom and her mom would show up and drive your butt to the hospital. Either way the situation was handled and your thumb was reattached, and your parents were still able to enjoy a nice evening out with friends or, better yet, each other.

So what was the epidemic that my cousin shared? The baffling yet regular habit of lesser mentally developed men that feel the need to, and consistently engages in the practice of sending a picture, via text, of the guy taking a picture of his reflection completely naked with his naughty bits waving hello to some poor unsuspecting woman who had only gone out with the chap only once a few days prior. I mean, who does that? I wish I had an answer, but it completely baffles me, bewilders me, befuddles me, and other words starting with b.

There were a few people at the party who admitted to having received more than one candid photo from more than one mentally broken male presenting their peanut sized brain in digital form to a girl that they have either chatted with online, had dinner with as a result of friends setting them, or that they had been chatting/stalking via Facebook. None of us at the party could really figure it out. One has started keeping a collection of all the “junk” files she receives in the event that fame or fortune comes to the junk sender. She figures at that point she can always sell the images to the highest bidder.

You know what I find confusing about selling photos like that? If you attempt to sell the image back to the individual who freely sent them to you in the first place, law enforcement experts chose to call that blackmail, but if you sell it to a third party so that they can release it to every major news networks and with any luck get the image to go viral so millions of people Google and giggle at some candid photo, it’s perfectly legit and often called entertainment. The world is a funny place sometimes.

I find it a little disturbing how common of a practice this actually is. The more people I talk to about this, the more I find people responding, “Oh yeah, happens all the time.” It’s almost as if it’s such a common practice that people just aren’t affected by it anymore. One of the party goers did admit that weren’t terrible opposed to it if there was some creativity involved with the picture taking, but this was the same person saving the photos for possible money making opportunities. My theory is that if you get the model to play “naughty bits” dress up the photo is going to be a lot more valuable in the resellers market. Who knows though, maybe that’s the line for her where junk becomes art.

I mean, I knew texting was a gateway habit to poor etiquette, but I had no idea how far south the poor etiquette meter it can cause some people to go. I hope it gets better, but sadly no matter what you consider is acceptable or not, I fear that as long as there are devices that have cameras on them there are going to be people jumping in front of them as the take picture button is pushed wearing only a smile. If you are one of these smiley people, practice some social skills and at least ask the person if they want to see it instead of just surprising them with a text that is going to add an extra year to their therapist visits. It’s the right thing to do.

Normally I’d ask for your stories on the topic, but I’m a little afraid to ask… your call I suppose, but please don’t send me any pictures.

Image Sources:
Google Images, key words: texting, naughty texting, texting at dinner, blackmail, and poor etiquette.

Happy Almost Independence Day

Getting Tippy in Vegas

One thing I noticed about Vegas, it is a very tippy town. Of course it’s also a very tipsy town. Still, tipping in Vegas is just as common of a practice as drinking in Vegas. The thing is, getting tipsy there is a very simple process and the casinos are very eager and willing to accommodate any who are seeking that type of Vegas experience. Tipping on the other hand, although an easy process to take part in, is a very confusing process for a carry-your-own-bags type of personality such as myself.

Here’s what happened, on the second night in Vegas we had reserved a suite at the MGM Grand to do some training for about 20 to 30 people who had gone to Vegas for the same business training that my sweetie-baby-cutie-pie-wifey-pooh had gone there for. After the training, we had some Hawaiian BBQ and a luau party, along with some entertainment. The entertainment… dancers! I know what you are thinking, but the dancing did stay in theme with the party and the dancers wore traditional island outfits and performed traditional island dances in which all of the dancers remained clothed. That in and of itself may seem like a bit of an enigma for Vegas, but for the purpose and theme of the evening it was perfect.

The grooviest part of this whole experience was that the hotel was feeling rather randomly generous that day and upgraded our room to a high end suite for no additional cost. When we arrived with all the party supplies we had the bellboy, who was really a bellman but still seemed content on being referred to as a boy that based on his title alone was in charge of ringing the bells for the hotel, unload the car and place all our supplies on a luggage cart.

He was very clear that we would not be seeing him again, and that he would not be the one to drop off our luggage at our room. He pointed this out to us three different times. After he filled up a luggage cart we understanding the not so subtle hints he was dropping, tipped him a few dollars and headed to our room. When we got there a completely different “boy” showed up with our luggage cart and proceeded to unload it for us. The main problem I had with this and with loading up the cart was that it just makes me feel a little useless and odd not knowing how to react to the situation. I wanted to help out, because that’s how I was raised, but both “boy ala bells” was very adamant that I do no such thing.

After the cart was unloaded the “boy” came over to me asked for the cart ticket we had been given when the cart was first loaded up. I handed it to him with a $5 bill. He looked at the bill and opened it up to see if there was more than one bill inside. When there wasn’t he looked back at me with a “Seriously!?!” look on his face to which I responded, “Thank you!” in one of my friendly tones, and with that he left.

It did get me thinking though. Apparently I had taken part in some tipping faux pas. At least when I comes to tipping for your food there is a standard set up that I can mathematically figure out and take part in. I was almost bothered by the “boys” reaction, but we had to quickly get everything set up for the party, and I was responsible for mixing a vat of spirited juice for the attendees. Also, we scored an amazing room. It was around 2200 sq. feet and we were on the 17th floor. The room had a deck with a fabulous view overlooking the strip, which just so happened to have a hot tub on it.

During the stay in Vegas my thoughts eventually went back to this whole tipping thing and confusion began to set in. Here’s how the subject began to unravel in my head…
Tipping your server in a restaurant is around 15 to 20% of the cost of your meal. This is a common standard for the US. So how does that equate to baggage handlers? I mean apparently you have to tip the bellboy who unloads your car, and then you tip the bellboy who unloads your luggage cart. You also tip the valet person that takes your car and then you tip them when they return your car. Is there a percentage associated with the tip based on room cost? If there is a scale, what is considered correct? It is 1% or 5% or what exactly? I know it can’t be the same food, mainly because the service you get for the span of a meal could be up anywhere between 30 minutes to 2+ hours. Unloading your baggage cart takes maybe 10 minutes top. Granted there is a bit more heaving lifting, but still.

Also, how does this percentage work with upgrades? If I reserve a room that is $200 a night and get upgraded to a room that is $1000 a night, am I then required to tip at the new room rate vs. the original room rate? I don’t think you would, but maybe you are? Does that go along with cars as well? Do you tip a valet guy more if you drive a more expensive car vs. a cheap car? Or is there just one standard fee? Also, with the valet, or even taxis, do you tip more if there are more people in the car?

And another thing, we had a cleaning lady show up to get the room ready for bedtime, something I’ve not experienced since I was 5 and my mother would come into my room to tuck me in at night, although this was a bit different. Some nice lady showed up and took away all of the trash from the party. Then she went up to our room and placed some robes on the bed and folded open the sheets to the bed so we could easily climb into bed without having to take an extra second or two to personally grab the corner of the bed sheet and fold it down and then climb into bed. It too was an odd little experience and at the end, it was once again tip time. Once again begging the question, how much do you tip these people? Is this also equated to the cost of the room you are in, or if it is an upgrade do you use the room you were initially intended to be in? Is there an equation that can be used to quickly figure out these sums? Or is it just some standard fee?

And while I’m on the topic, I do feel it important to point out that if you are a food server and you take care of a table of 6 or more people (I believe that is the standard) were you automatically add an 18% gratuity and then you intentionally don’t tell the party that in hopes that you’ll get double tips, well then you are an evil, wicked, mean, and bad, and nasty person and I hope you get a severe case facial herpes which always flares around your mouth so that no one will ever want to kiss you again. Sure, some might call that a bit harsh, but I choose to call it suggestive karma.

On a different note, but still on the same topic, if you are at a restaurant, and you and your dining party stay for an extended period of time catching up, laughing, telling jokes, sobering up, whatever really, and spend over a three hour period at your table, remember that your server has had to put up with you and serve you for that time and has lost tips because you are taking up a table that someone else could have used for a meal and tipped the server for. The point is you really need to tip them more that the customary 15%. I’d recommend doubling your tip for them. Or if you are one of those people that just meets for coffee at a restaurant and purchase a cup of endless coffee and decide to spend two hours there drinking coffee and ordering nothing else, make sure you drop a dollar or two for each hour you spend there as a tip to your server. It too is a karma issue.

Needless to say, Vegas did leave me a little tipped out when we left. I’m sure there is a cell phone app out there that is more than willing to answer all of my Vegas tipping questions, but that would require me to get a new cell phone that would allow me to add apps to my phone, and that is one gamble that I am just not willing to make.

Is anyone else as perplexed by this extended tipping practice, or is it just me?

Image Sources:
Google Images, key words: tips, bellboy, MGM suite deck, confused man, and friends at dinner.

Happy Almost Independence Day

A Day for Remembering

I did have a Smirk that I was going to post today, which I’ve been working on the past few days, but, clearly, I opted out of posting it due mainly to the fact that today is a holiday, Memorial Day to be precise. At its origin, Memorial Day was refereed as Decoration Day, where people would decorate the graves of Union soldiers that died during the American Civil War. The decorations were a way of paying respect and giving thanks to the soldiers who died while in service of the military.

Even as early as 1882 the name Memorial Day was used in relation to this holiday, but it was not until 1971 that it officially changed. The day was changed to always be observed on the last Monday of May in order to ensure a three day weekend. It also marks the beginning of summer.

I get that Memorial Day is for remembering our fallen military, but for me ever since I was little, the holiday as evolved into something more. To me, Memorial Day is a Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. It’s not just a day for fallen soldiers, it’s a day for remembering all that have passed on. Since my mom’s grandparents were alive while I was growing up in Wyoming, there was never a need to go the their graves for memorial day, but once a year the family we would travel to Idaho and visit the little head stones of my dad’s parents. Then, as we would weed, edge, and deleaf their graves, and scrub clean their headstones, my dad would tell us stories about Grandma and Grandpa Timothy.

When my dad’s voice would start to crack and the silence between each sentence grew longer that is when the stories would come to a close, and we would go to the car and get out the food for our Memorial Day picnic. Usually it was sandwiches and Kool-Aid, and sometimes it was sandwiches and Kool-Aid and 7 Up mixed together for the magical combination of twice the sugar with only half the bubbles. Still, it was a treat that we never took for granted.

After lunch was over, we would usually head back home which consisted of me sitting in the middle of back seat with my feet on the hump and my knees to my chest. I would dare say that this was my least favorite traveling position, but as it turned out, it was rather fortuitous. I was a head duck away from a sitting fetal position, which was always helpful when sitting between my two older brothers who, on more than one occasion, would feel compelled to fight out what was between them… namely me. I love them both to pieces now, but as the little brother growing up, my old brothers were bastards… of course I mean no disrespect towards my mom. I’m just saying… we didn’t always get along when we were little.

Memorial Day is one of those red wine holidays. The older I get the more I appreciate and savor the holiday. I am grateful to the service men that did what they felt they needed to for this country, and I’m grateful for those that I have known who have expired. My grandparents on both sides of the family are now gone, but it was their lessons they transferred onto my parents that helped them become the parents they are for me. Today is a holiday to celebrate the memories we have of those who are gone and it should be a celebration. Their life has affected our life and for that, I am thankful.

Even though today is the US day of observance there are similar holidays celebrated for this same purpose. There is:

And I’m sure the list just keeps going from there. There is a certain homage that is tied to people who have served and died for their country. I do think, though, that one can serve their country without military service. I look at people working at a soup kitchen to assist those in need, or people offering their time to serve people in hospitals, or donating blood, or any type of service that helps others. To me, that is serving your country.

And to add just a one more thing to my little soapbox moment here, please try to leave the politics at home on days like today. Let’s try being gracious to those that are gone. So lift a glass, pint, mug, bottle, cask, keg… whatever really, but lift your drink and offer a thanks. I don’t see the point in getting angry on a day like today, it doesn’t do you any good and it doesn’t do those that are gone any good. I do admit I have no experience with losing a loved one due to war. I’m sure it’s different for you.

I think most service men die because those in charge made poor decisions or were too proud to have conversations with other people in charge that could save lives. Then again, there is also the occasional crazy bastard that just wants to kill epic amounts of innocent people. In which case I do think people like that could benefit from either a lobotomy or a circumcision that starts at the base of the neck. I guess the point is, that on your day of remembrance, you choose to remember the loved ones who is gone, and not what took them away.

I’m actually off to my brother’s for a BBQ this afternoon. When I get there, I’m going to have both my parents tell us a story about their parents. Even though we didn’t visit any graves this year, at least we can share and celebrate the memories we have of them. So to all those who have gone to whatever beyond you think might exist or not exist, to those who believed in and gave something to this world and their country , and to my grandparents, my Aunt Carol and Uncle Dee, and to my friend Alison. And finally to days like today, which remind us to remember. Cheers!

How was your Memorial Day?

Image Sources:
Google Images, key words: Memorial Day, family picnic, and grandpa telling stories.

Happy Almost Independence Day

The Right to Rate Movies Right

Movies, we all know what one looks like after it’s had its 15 minutes and then walks the path of inevitable DVDism. And even though I gather most of my film consumption via DVD, I have even been known to do the occasional theater experience as well. I’d like to say it’s better, but you know how it goes, once you get there you find need for a tub of popcorn and a soda usually costs you slightly more than your first born, and if you want to get some Junior Mints to go along with that, you have to haggle with yourself on whether making your car payment that month is really more important than a box of processed dark chocolate stuffed with a foreign substance that is the equivalent of a aftermath of a candy canes sneeze. Sad thing is, sometimes we actually decide that chocolate covered peppermint boogers are worth being a little late on the car payment for the month.

There are some films that I think are enhanced by seeing them on the big screen. Granted, most of this enhancement comes from watching a film in a theater full of devoted fans as opposed to watching it with a group of people that are only in the theater because they want to get out of the summer heat. Fan excitement is a power to be reckoned with. Because of fan excitement I have found myself in the past enjoying the hell out of an incredibly mediocre film. Then again the opposite can happen as well. You can go to a rather exciting and entertaining film and if you happen to be surrounded by a collection of people jacked up on Ritalin, there is a chance it’s going to lose some of its splendor.

One of the magical aspects of the cinema is that it is an entertainment medium that gives every person that watches it the self proclaimed title of film critic. When first starting out as a film critic the initial practice of rating a film is very Roman in origin. A film either receives a thumbs up, meaning that it should be allowed to live so that others can experience the same viewing pleasure that you received. Or you give it a thumbs down, which simply means that you would recommend going to the dentist for a root canal as a viable entertainment option as opposed to seeing the film.

The situation that then follows is a result of film makers not holding themselves to a higher standard, or it could just be that the industry is flooded with trite and uninspiring film makers. The result is the relentless flow of films that are not good, but they don’t really suck either. This requires the novice film critic to add a new dimension to their film rating system. Enter the three star system:
1 Star = Hated it.
2 Star = It was ok.
3 Star = Loved it.

As opinions about film grow, so does the range of your ability to review a film, thus increasing your rating system to a five points, stars, A through F or something similar. For today’s purposes and to add clarity, I’m going to borrow Netflix’s five-star system and their definitions. It breaks down like this:
1 Star = Hated It
2 Star = Didn’t Like It
3 Star = Liked It
4 Star = Really Liked It
5 Star = Loved It

The problem I have with this is that there are way too many movies out there that evoke absolutely no emotion at all, or just fail to exceed any of your movie watching expectations, thus creating a completely new movie going experience. These are what I predominantly call background movies. Something you can put on in the background, while you are doing something else. The film really doesn’t have enough merit to encourage you to pay attention to them, meaning they are easy to ignore.

For me these are movies that earn my 3 Star rating. The nice thing about these films is their utter lack of interest, so it’s easy to work on other things and focus on other things while these movies play. This is the main reason movies I disliked or hated don’t fall into this category. Movies you dislike are instilling in you a negative response or an unpleasant emotion. On a personal note, if you are of the disposition that you need noise while you create and your preferred background noise is a television, please never create while a film that affects you negatively is playing. It’s just a bad way to create in my opinion.

Here is my personal 5 Star film rating system:

  • 5 Star = Loved it. I am going to purchase this film when it comes out for my personal collection and worth watching a few times.
  • 4 Star = Exceeded my expectations and worth the time I spent watching it.
  • 3 Star = Met most to all of my expectations. An ok film… or in other words, out of all the movies I’ve ever seen that definitely was one.
  • 2 Star = Mostly worthless. Met few to no expectations I had for the film.
  • 1 Star = Screw you movie! That is two hours of my life I will never get back. I am actually stupider because I have watched this film. It might also be comparable to a vomit milkshake. (There are few movies that I hate this much, but there are some.)

If it makes sense to you, please feel free to adopt it and raise it as one of your own.

Also, based on that system, here are a few movies that I’ve seen that fall into each category:
1 Star = There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, and Star Trek 5
2 Star = Aeon Flux, Burn After Reading, and Jerry Maguire
3 Star = Across the Universe, Crazy Heart, and Dances with Wolves
4 Star = The Breakfast Club, Dear Frankie, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
5 Star = Harvey, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Stranger than Fiction

I do need to point out that I think for all people there is a kind of holy writ of viewing euphoria. It is very personal to the viewer and overflows with nostalgia, carrying with it such joy and appreciation that you could have it playing nonstop for days at a time. And whether you are paying attention or not, it’s fine, because you know that when you do stop and pay attention, it is always going to put a smile on your face, unconsciously causing you to appreciate everything in life that much more. It’s a kind of bliss movie, a blovie if you will. See even the word makes you smile. For me, it would have to be MST3K (or one of its off shoots), and for my sweetie-baby-cutie-pie its old Shirley Temple films. There is something permeatingly happy about watching Angela watch Shirley. They are a bit contagious in that regard.

So, what are some of your blovies?

Image Source:
Google Images, key words: watching movies, thumbs up, bored audience, and MST3K.