Sunday, February 29, 2004

Well, it certainly was a movie!

I just went to see “The Passion of the Christ” and my head is still reeling. This film shows the potential there is in the medium. It was visually beautiful, intellectually stimulating, symbolically stunning, dramatically compelling and emotionally wrenching. It is once of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen in a long time. Each frame of the film could be taken, mounted and hung in an art museum; “Tess” was the last film that met that standard. There, do I sound like a film critic?

It has made me want to go back a re-read the bible, as there were a number of story points I don’t quite remember as they were portrayed in the film. The crucifixion has never been so realistically and graphically depicted. The violence in it made even stronger the sacrifice Christ made. In the past the images of his suffering has been clean and sanitized. Mel Gibson makes us feel each and every blow. Your own skin seems to rend and tear. The audience is battered much in the same way Christ does so we almost feel the same relief when he gives his spirit up to God.

The violence really isn’t anything worse than you’d see in lots of other films already out there. It’s probably hitting so many nerves because it’s the character of Christ. As I said in an earlier post, religion is always a sore point with people.

I can understand the trepidation of some Jewish people. However, the brutality of the Romans is presented as much to blame as anything the Pharisees did. The finger is not pointed in just one direction; there’s plenty to go around. Jesus’ knowledge that he is dying for all of mans’ sins is ever present. Along with that is the humanity of Christ. One of my favorite moments is when Mary decides to go to his side as he carries the cross. She has a flashback to his childhood, when he falls in a mirror of how he does under the cross. Her maternal instincts immediately jump to the fore and she runs to him. As a parent, I could identify completely and it tugged at me heart.

My friend Jim and I have had an ongoing debate about movies. To him movies are simply for entertainment; you should just be able to walk in, turn off your brain and enjoy the show. To me movies can be that…and lots more. Like any art form, they should be able to uplift and comment on the human condition. Even the simplest of movies should be able to touch you as a human being in some fashion.

Was it a perfect film? No. Is it a favorite of mine? Not really sure. But it is an important film I would suggest to anyone.

Friday, February 27, 2004

There’s so much in this life which makes me shake my head. I am planning on seeing “The Passion of the Christ” this weekend. A good friend of mine, Jason, has invited me to go to a free show which his church is sponsoring. I understand how touchy a subject religion can be for people. There are few things more personal than whatever is a person’s belief is in a higher power. And that counts for whether they believe in a God or not. Either way, it’s a belief which strongly defines a person. If a statement is made about that belief you’re going to have a strong reaction.

#1 It’s just a movie. It’s a dramatic portrayal of the end of Christ’s life. It is not a documentary. Give a rest to all the criticism over its “historical inaccuracies”. I’m sure “Ghandi” reproduced conversations word for word and every moment of “Titanic” was just like being there. Why were there no outcries about the historical truths in “10 Commandments” or “The Greatest Story Ever Told”?

#2 I don’t blame Germans I know for what the Nazis did in World War II. I don’t blame Turks I know for the Armenian genocide. I only blame Milosevc for the atrocities in the Baltics. And I don’t blame the Jews for something a few religious/political leaders may or may not have done 2,000 years ago.

#3 Yes, it’s a violent movie. Crucifixion is a violent way to die. Maybe, being able to see a realistic portrayal of a crucifixion, and how long and torturous it was, we can really appreciate the sacrifice Christ made for us. Unless you were on Normandy Beach, you never really knew what it was like until the opening 15 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan”. Hopefully this film will do the same thing.

I am very glad the movie is generating discussion and debate no matter how myopic some viewpoints may be. These putzs who condemn it without seeing it and do so in the name of their religion or God flies in the face of what it is they are defending. Such an approach is intolerant and prejudiced; sort of opposite of what you’d think they’d be.

I’ll have a more extensive review after I see the movie, of course.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Thirteen years ago today I was standing in Greenwood Community Church being married. It’s been a long strange trip from there to here. It’s an odd feeling I get every year at this time. I often wonder if other divorced people have the same thoughts on their “anniversaries”. As I’m sure every divorced person would say, “No matter how it turned out, the best thing to came out of it was my son”. OK, that’s true.

It’s not that I carry any kind of torch for my ex-wife. I have always liked the time travel theory of multiple time lines where every possibility are acting themselves out at the same time but in different “realities”; sort of like multiple lanes on a superhighway. Each decision we make changes us from lane to lane giving us our current reality. Somewhere, in one of those other lanes, we are still married, happy, and living a good life. But decisions were made and choices were taken and we are in our current reality. I have regrets, yes, but that thought tends to take the sting away from the quickly. Somewhere, the decision I would have rather have happened did happen. That I can live with.

I also wonder about my first wife sometimes, too. Because of our son, my second wife and I are in regular contact and know what’s going on in each others’ lives. We have even been able to move beyond some of the hurt of the divorce and can talk and laugh with each other again. I haven’t talked with my first wife in 10 years. What does she do? How did her life progress? Did she ever have children and what do they look like? Is she happy? Does she think of me at times? How does she explain me to any children she does have?

We were together for 6 years. Like anyone, we had bad and good times. I loved her. She was my first lover. She was also my first divorce and that cut deep. When you marry, you imagine that person will be part of your life “till death do you part”. It’s a little hard to let that go. For either of them, actually.

I hope they are both happy, more than anything.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

My friend Harry gave me a really hard time about not writing for a while…so, here I am. And, boy has it been an interesting few weeks. There have been lots of business-like changes at work. Every day is another experience in living with stress. There’s lots of changes in the wind and no one knows for certain, unless you’re one of the higher-ups, what those changes are going to be. Everyone’s on pins and needles.

To make it even better I’ve been in a shit-storm of my own at work. For all kinds of Human Resource and legal reasons I can’t go into it here. The worst part of it is that friendships have been affected by bullshit. Or, at least, I thought they were friendships. We have a wonderful HR person in our division who has always been able to be something rare in HR, a human being. She and I have always been able to debate different aspects of “corporate life”. Weeks ago she and I got into a debate over relationships with co-workers. She holds fast to the notion that co-workers are only co-workers, nothing more. It was a very interesting debate.

Like a lot in my life, I relate to something from television. In the final episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” Mary Richards says, “Sometimes I wonder if the people you work with are just the people you work with; they’re not family. But then, I wonder, what is family. They’re the people who care about you and make you feel less alone. You are all my family”. Paraphrased, of course, but you get the idea. I grew up with my parents having close friends come from each of their work places. Shared good and bad times together and that closeness with my parents has filtered down to the next generation and even to the grandchild level in some instances. Some of my parents’ good friends/co-workers are also my good friends. They are family. How can you not spend 8-plus hours per day with people and not become involved in their lives? The idea that they are just the people in the cubicle next to mine is impossible to fathom. OK, there are some I wouldn’t want to be part of my life, but those that do come in are as cherished as anyone sharing my last name.

That’s the part that has hurt the most about my recent “episode”. The people affected by this have entered my life. We have shared meals, special occasions, emotionally wrenching times, laughs, tears and every other emotion you can imagine between friends. It’s not the actual incident that upsets me the most, but the fact they believe I would forfeit or betray their friendship in any manner. While I sit here and wonder if I ever really knew these people I also wonder if they ever really knew me not to know that I would never put loyalty to a friendship before any job.

Sometimes I am naive, I admit. I don’t always hear the scuttlebutt going around the office. I don’t catch all the nuances of situations. While, at times, I feel betrayed by the actions of these other people I still give them the benefit of the doubt that they were influenced by others; that they could not have betrayed our friendship either. I do that because I know that’s the way I treat others and expect it in return; you know, “do unto others”. I read that in a book somewhere once.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

I just had a fantastic visit with my sisters Kathleen and Joan. It was the first time Joan has seen me since a year before my surgery. She was more than pleased with my progress. We sat and shot the boll for a while, then went to lunch along with a visit to my office to show that off.

My relationships with my sisters have always been different. A major difference in our ages has always been a major aspect. There is a 15-year difference between me and the youngest of my sisters. I was always closest to my sister Elaine but we haven’t spoken in a long time. No, I’m not going into that here. Simplest explanation is that I miss her deeply. Kathy and I have always been close although we have always been the furthest apart geographically. We have always had the ability to pick up a conversation where we left off even if it had been a year since the last time we talked. Joan is the oldest and in many ways is what you would think the oldest would be. The BOSS. I love her as much as any of the others but because of the deeper age difference there will always be a slightly different tinge to our relationship. There are things I can talk over with one that I could never repeat to the others.

We never lived in the same house together save for vacations spent with each of them when I was a child. While we do love each other and are comfortable with each other I always wonder what they think of me as an adult. We do seem to have gotten closer since our mother’s passing. We talk at least once a week and catch up on family gossip and the latest goings on. We rarely, however, have deep conversations about life. The only times I have done that with either Kathy or Joan was around the time of mom’s death. Another reason I miss Elaine.

Again, don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t love and cherish my sisters or have a favorite over any of the others, I just don’t know how “normal” our relationship is. I can only hope other sisters and brothers wonder the same thing.

I loved the fact that they both laughed at my standup from the company talent show. We cried a little when we said our good-byes and when we talked seriously about my surgery. As much as I wonder about our relationship I can certainly know for a certainty that they DO love me and I love them as well. In retrospect, even tough I may have reveled in being “an only child” at home growing up I do miss not having had the sisters around to grow up with and become a “team” of siblings. None of the rivalry, secrets and intimate life together I see in other brother/sisters combinations.

At least, we’re still here and have another good 20 to 30 years to make sure we make up for all those things we may have missed out on in childhood have some rivalry, secrets and intimate life together through the remainder of our lives.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Things at work have gone through a major shake-up. Our CEO and a parade of others afterwards, in the past few weeks. There are all kinds of business and legal reasons, but the main things which affects me is that a friend is gone. From the moment I met him we've had a good relationship. He has always been approachable, interested and a good humor. I could always talk to him like an equal. In his time here, as part of a large conglomerate, which bought our company and took it public, he became Liberty. He was the personification of the company. When you thought of Liberty, you thought of Keith. He involved his employees and made life good for them.

There was one moment with him which I will always remember. At one point there was a major investigation of our company. It was a nervous time at work, which always seemed to magnify even the smallest of problems. You always waited for that moment when they would tap you on the shoulder and lead you away to Human Resources for that sudden “Exit Interview”.

I was sitting at work and a supervisor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Jack, please come with me”. Mt desk was right near the door leading to the front offices; you could turn either towards my supervisor’s office or towards the corporate office area. My supervisor took the turn towards corporate.

My pulse quickened.

Upon entering the lobby you could turn either towards Human Resources or towards the President’s office. All sorts of reasons for getting fired began to dance through my head. Then my supervisor led me towards the President’s office.

My heart was pounding out of my chest.

As we got walked down the long hallway all possible thought seemed to leave my head. I was completely stunned and in no way could imagine what could possible have me headed towards Keith’s office. What on earth could I have done that was this bad?

At the last minute my supervisor opened the door to the boardroom and let me go in alone.

I think that’s when I flat-lined.

Inside were Keith and three, I would learn in a moment, corporate lawyers from Boston. It was explained to me that, in response to what had been happening they were looking for someone who could be considered “honest” who could give the most possible truthful answers about the allegations against the company and what may or may not have been happening on the sales floor. As the blood began again to flow and my breathing resumed I realized the position into which I had been placed. I was flattered and honored to be chosen as someone who could speak freely about any problems facing the company and to do so under a very stressful situation yet be allowed to speak freely in front of some of the most powerful people in the company. That has always meant a lot to me. A little warning before walking in the room would have been nice, though!

Joking with Keith on stage. Dropping him in a dunk tank. Making fun of his cheesy mustache. They are all memories I will cherish. There is also the regret that there will not be any more memories like those. Whether it’s right to get emotional over a work related situation like this is right or nt; I don’t care. I’ve lost a friend. I will miss you, Keith.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

I am officially sick and tired of all of this noise being made over the Janet Jackson “wardrobe mishap” at the Superbowl. It was show business! That’s all. All this uproar and furor is so ridiculous. The damned story has been in the top five minutes of every newscast I’ve seen.

Was it staged? Was it an accident? Ohmigod, all the children who were watching! It was obscene! It was indecent! The NFL apologized. Janet apologized. The FCC investigates.

Aren’t there more important things to worry about?

I enjoyed most of the game and the accompanying advertising. The ending was a real nail-biter, which made for the first exciting Superbowl in a number of years.

My interest in football is all thanks to my friend Jim Langevin. I was never into football while growing up. My asthma kept me from being into sports. I had one brother-in-law who was coach of one of the top football teams in Rhode Island and every Thanksgiving at their house ended in a bowl game blaring from the TV. I was bored to tears. When I went to work for Jim as a driver in 1989 we quickly became close friends. He was aghast that I was not into football. One day he sat me down and said, “You are going to sit down, learn this game and like it!” And I did. Jim asked me who my favorite team was. I was stumped. “Well,” I said, “I liked ‘Brian’s Song’, so I guess the Bears.”

Since then I have spent weekends, on my own, watching games. When I worked at a radio station which carried Patriots’ games I went to the old Sullivan stadium. I wear team jerseys, hats and even have a commemorative Bears Superbowl winning watch. Thanks, Jim.

While I’m ranting on the insignificant….

I am also offended by the current advertising campaign by that popular “chicken in a bucket fast food restaurant”. I have fond childhood memories of making that special trip across town with my father to the only location of that restaurant in town when he would “spring” for a dinner of the greasy and spicy poultry. It was a big deal for a little kid. In the past few years they have been slowly re-crafting their image away from the Colonel (may he rest in peace) by dropping their entire name for the 21st Century, immediate gratification, short term memory, everything is an acronym KFC version. Then as we all decided to get healthy and Dr. Atkins told us carbs were dangerous and they began to tout themselves as “health food”. The final nail has been driven into the coffin in their “Kitchen Fresh Chicken”.

Do they think we’re that stupid?

Stop shaking your head; I told you it was insignificant.