Free at last!


I like movies. Roughly 43 gabillion other people also like movies.  I took 1 film class in college (‘Film History’ to be exact), and a while back I did a bit of reviewing over at Horror News, a pretty cool site. Some years back, as a structured Cultural-enrichment thing, I taught ‘Film and Media’ at a middle school campus after school one day per week in Tyler, Texas (for pay).  I’m saying all this to convey that: I don’t have a ‘special’ opinion on films, but I like to think, one that is fairly well informed……for someone who doesn’t pay his rent as a movie critic.

So, for my gift to the universe today, I’d like to offer a few comments about Independence Day: Resurgence.   <clears throat> This is a film, that most assuredly tries very hard….it really does. Put bluntly: the 1st and 3rd acts deliver fairly well, they do. The 2nd act, however, is an utter train wreck of the highest order… just is. I haven’t even the energy to go beat by beat through this whole movie, but honestly here it is in a nutshell:

The aliens come back. They’re strong. Their ship is big (presented in a VERY CONFUSING FASHION that was a huge visual ‘miss’ from a production standpoint. I mean, a big spaceship that’s 3500 miles wide…..and you can’t figure out a better way to present it than in this strange, broken, 7 or 8 shots deliver pell-mell?)  There’s a lot of running around, flying stuff, shooting at stuff, somber expressions, tired cliches (that were tired 15 years ago), yelling, a stumbling former US President presented in an overwrought fashion, close ups of 50-something actors’ faces, blah-blah-diggety-blah. Oh, there’s an alien queen who’s kinda cool, but that gets old fast.

Now, I know I’m going to make someone (or some people) mad, but this is my blog: Maika Monroe is a part of the new stable of who-told-them-they-could-actually-act young female actors so prevalent today. Daisy whats-her-name is good, don’t misunderstand, she is….she’s good…..I think she has a lot of range, I do.  But we REALLY DON’T HAVE a Judy Garland or a Meg Ryan or a Barbara Streisand today…..we don’t…..we really don’t.  I don’t know what the problem is……she’s 23 years old, she’s done (before this) about 4 films that anyone would know (or might even care) about. So, none of that’s her fault……but for a young female lead, playing in a film like this aimed at an understandably young audience…..she just lacks the Pa-Zow! power for this role…..she just does.

Here’s my advice: if you can stream, or rent (or whatever) this one for no more than a buck-fifty……sure, go for it. But outside of that: save your money. It wants, and hopes and prays to be this summer’s gonzo blockbuster…….but it just fails….in a real bad way.


On Dreams Re-Realized

When I was young (as in, very early 20’s)…..I had BIG dreams. I didn’t, however, have a solid plan mapped out for how I would bring those dreams to pass. Oh, I had a ‘map’ (metaphorically speaking), just a teeny scribble on a scrap of paper floating around up in me head. My plan was to, ultimately, become an amalgamation of Dr. Phil and Donald Trump….I like to jokingly say (technically, this was LONG before your common bear had even heard the name Dr. Phil and eons before ‘The Donald’ decided he wanted to be The Chief…..but I digress).

I pretty much always liked books and learning……but high school was soooooooo-ooooo boring! Theater and music and church were life, man! That’s all that mattered! So, after a stint in the military, I started college at 20…..dreaming of being a Licensed Professional Counselor (or something of that ilk). I was generally much better at ‘the college thing’ than I was at high school stuff.  I thought, that, just a few years down the road,  I’d have a big office with huge windows and a water feature in the lobby and I’d write shelves of books and go on speaking tours and I’d be this wizened sage and would, of course, make waterfalls-of-money on a regular basis. I even went to work for a community mental health center, that schooled me well on the realities of working with people who struggle with problems.

Well, I didn’t bring grad. school to pass. I do ply my trade as a social worker these days, which is a noble undertaking, albeit one that isn’t heavily rewarded in the money category. I finished college…….not long after that, my Mom’s health began to take its final, radical nose dive, though. My step dad left this world 19 months after Mom left it…..and my father is really a non-starter in the parenting department. Those things, plus about 10-12 other factors which I’m leaving out……and I just didn’t make grad. school happen……I just didn’t. Officially speaking…..I never really even started grad. school….I didn’t.

Sure, there was some ‘other stuff’ in terms of college after graduating…….some psychology pre-reqs (which I took too soon after my Mom’s passing….not in a good place for academics, but I still managed to muddle through for the most part). A little computer science……one or two graduate Sociology classes, etc. I even later earned an undergrad. Certificate from a college in West Texas.   I’m rambling a bit, but I’m really going somewhere here, trust me.

Sometimes, when you’re young…….you build this VERY NARROW tower in your mind (more of a ladder, to be exact)….and you think: ‘I intend to achieve success. Therefore, I will do step 1, then step 2, then step 3…………..blah-blah-blah, and when I get to step 30, I will have arrived!! That will be it….I will have succeeded!’  In reality, life rarely works like that! Life is NEVER perfectly linear, for anyone!! Things don’t move in perfect sequence……they just don’t. You might get 80% into your ‘big plan’ and realize: ‘This isn’t at all what I wanted!!’  You might become a parent, and find out your child has a serious medical condition…….that impacts your ability to pursue some of your dreams! What I’m saying, (clumsily) is this: life can hold many rewards for you that you never thought were possible when you were young…….so don’t let them fly right by you! I’ve ‘gained’ things or ‘succeeded’ at things or have ‘become’ [positive] things that I’d never have even conceived of when I was 20 years old.

Take a minute…..look around at your life and congratulate yourself for the GOOD things you are and have done in your time on this earth! Don’t let your ‘little’ accomplishment slip right past you!

Texas schools

I don’t claim to be an expert on education finance or reform, but here is a bit from a comment following an education-related article I read today in the Dallas Morning News:

“As to school funding, try finding a study that shows a correlation between per pupil expenditures and student achievement — they don’t exist. The tenure of the teacher, the educational level of the teacher and the educational level of the parents determine student achievement.”

Hmmmm, interesting

I’ve never been a huge fan of Psychology Today magazine. As a social worker, I find much of the stuff to be wacky, wonky babble that teeters near the line of astrology more than science. However, I stumbled upon this article today: No autism epidemic

Simply on the matter of thinking like a proper scientist, it’s a good article.

Careful what you measure!

Measurement is a big part of the grown-up working world. Companies measure profit vs. loss. Hospitals measure ‘bed days’ and ‘labor expenses’ etc. In some way, accounting has been an integral of ALL organized societies for gazillions of centuries. I worked in the for-profit healthcare area for a long time (and still do, in a moonlighting capacity, but for a MUCH smaller agency than I did in the old days). Back then ‘managing labor’ was HUGE. Admittedly, NOTHING IN THE WORLD can bleed money like a nursing facility or an assisted living center if you don’t keep an eye on staffing-to-patient ratios…..but I digress.

I find most forms of measurement interesting. Statistics is one of the few arenas of mathematics that has (pretty much) always made sense to me. News outlets manipulate statistics all the time…..they’re good at it. I read a bit on the VA-scheduling scandal earlier today and thought I’d put a clip up here:

“In some cases, the system encouraged manipulation even without explicit instruction from supervisors. A manager in West Palm Beach, Fla., sent out laudatory emails touting the shorter wait times the system showed. Schedulers in Harlingen, Texas, reported being berated by supervisors when they booked appointments showing longer wait times for veterans. (It was “not pretty,” one employee said.)” —USA Today 

From a young age, I picked up on how people could be ‘praised’ obliquely…….we say ‘good job’ about this-that-and-the-other all the time… human logic figures out quickly that whatever falls outside that is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.  Although I’m a veteran, I’ve never sought 10 seconds-worth of medical care from VA (although I may have to one day). That said, I’m certainly no expert on federalized-healthcare, either. I will say, though, that SYSTEMS develop their own system of values and mores. School teachers know this, they learn it quickly in college. ‘I like how Austin has his books stacked neatly, and is sitting quietly at his desk.’  They learn quickly to praise the desirable behavior…..and it works!  So, when the boss sends out e-mails that say: ‘Whoa, no wait times! You guys are awesome!’, what do you think will happen?!

Companies, hospitals, whomever, whatever, wherever: we have to fall in love with TRUTH, no matter the potential outcomes….and everyone knows….often, the truth hurts!