Sunday, May 20, 2018

Movie Review...The Post

I always wondered why my dad ate toast with warm milk on top. He ate it with a fork or a spoon for breakfast...or lunch sometimes. Once in a while he ate bread and milk with a little sugar for dinner. I had some, too. There was a reason for eating toast or bread with milk and sometimes with money for food.

The Post reminded me of the tasteless concoction we used to eat when there was nothing else. This film is a very vanilla story skimmed off the top of a dish where the bread is stale and the milk is sour. There's no sugar. This film is a very little soap opra-ish story, but the soap has no phosphate, no detergent, and no cleansing power. It’s the old Pentagon Papers account, weakly offered. It's an attempt to poke out the other eye of Richard Nixon, a failed (and dead) president who was already blind to the place where ethical principles were kept.

Thank goodness for Streep, Hanks, and Odenkirk, whose performance statures rose above the light soap scum. So, if you like good movies, you'll declare this one to be a dud with no dynamite and no fuse. This Spielberg "gotcha" blows itself up with little more than a "pfft."

Movie Review...Den of Thieves

Gerard Butler. LA’s number one major crime lawman. Roughshod. You’d like Gerard’s crew to succeed in their enforcement duties, but your hopes would be...well…. Just see the film and decide for yourself. Den of Thieves leaves lots of emotions hanging up there on the big screen. Bullet sales flourish, but bank robbery takes an unanticipated turn for both the good guys and the bad guys. You’ll see.

I had the feeling the heroes lived lives fraught with personal distress. The thieves lived lives on banana peels, packing weapons of paranoia and always looking over their shoulders. I asked myself how smart were the factions? How sure was I when the end flashed?

Den of Thieves is an action movie that does not have everything, but it has enough. It was enough for me to say I was thrilled, but not enough to offer lots of compassion for the losers. The film is easily the best “thinker” to come along lately.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Movie Review...The Commuter

I didn't fully appreciate this film until a week after I watched it with Doc. My first impression was that the director stopped each scene short of fulfillment. Scenes were set up without much preliminary explanation and they ended with an “almost” moment. Now, I think the whole idea was to make me hungry to know the secret at the finale. Now, I see.
There are characters who did their jobs very well. The story line seems pretty unbelievable until the 60 minute mark, when clarity starts to creep in. Actually, the story has probably worn itself out in dozens of previous extortion/bad guy/good guy tales, and The Commuter is another episode that earned a “plus” on the Reel Jockey's yardstick.
Here's what I liked: Liam Neeson. Steady and believable. An ending you'll love. Action packing that went to the limit. Here's what fell short: Graphic train crash. Unbelievable.

If you've been impressed with characters Liam Neeson has offered up in films, you'll appreciate this one, too.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

and The Ninth Commandment

Letter from a person who does not need a good reputation in order to be happy or successful:

Although I'd like to be remembered as a boy scout, a faithful husband, and a man of honesty, I realize that my certification as having a sterling reputation is not necessary for me to be happy with myself. It'd be nice, but not a key to my happiness. Being happy with myself is a matter strictly between me and the absolute authority in this universe.

Dear Heavenly Father, architect of the universe, creator of all life, I humbly come here today to praise You. I praise Your complete and unconditional support for me. You are the Rock that anchors my confidence. Everything I do is to honor you. Amen

I am a proud product of the Boy Scouts of America process, I am an ambassador for faithfulness, loyalty, friendship, and honesty. I know these things about myself. So, if you drip lies into the public arena that are designed to taint my reputation, the lies will not shake matter what the lie, no matter how widespread its repetition, nor how famous the person who spreads it. It doesn't matter that people I respect believe the lies (most won't). It doesn't matter what fake evidence you distribute, it won't have a drastic effect, because I know who I am.

But, there's a consequence. Every lie has an aftereffect. If you're the false witness (liar), you should have a real expectation of shame whittling away at your own self esteem and the specter of retribution in the form of a shot fired at your own reputation from the unfortunate situation you created. If you're an innocent victim, a person who received the false message, and worried how to factor this information into your friendships or daily activities, I understand your unsureness. It's because reputations have a value in society. Knowing who you are is a stronger pill, though, and when you have God's promise of support backing you up, you can stand strong. God provides the cure, and He never fails.

In the face of an attack on your reputation, be confident of who your really are. Don't waver. Never give up.  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Book Review...The Alice Network

Author Kate Quinn reveals a picture of German domination in France during WW1 from the standpoint of certain French women who could have been named “audacious” and “courageous.” Traders in death. Unconditionally loyal in their niche way to try to defeat the Kaiser.

On a dramatic scale, “The Alice Network” is the wartime account of three female volunteers spying on German officers deployed in a medium sized French town and networking numerous other embedded spies into a coordinated force against Germany. It's a seesaw balancing the collection of strategic secret information with the potential to save lives with the other alternative: getting caught and shot by a firing squad.

A key plot plays the middle between a greedy French businessman and his German officer customers. It's about putting aside personal safety and Victorian morals for the sake of duty, fighting fire with every gun and wile in the arsenal.

A nicely done secondary plot explores a 1947 American character who inserts herself in a tangential story about personalities who spanned both WW1 and WW2 who worked toward the same end in both wars to defeat Germany.

How did “The Alice Network” make me feel? I felt a comradeship with common ordinary people who were sacrificing to save the lives of their French, British, and Belgian countrymen. I felt sympathy for the female main characters who gave up years of their health, their esteem, and their lives to join the cause, and I felt theirs was a mission of hope for all the women whose lives were diverted by both wars.

There's a lesson in this novel, and I think it has an enormous value to the world: When you and your loved ones bump up against the specter of eradication and sure death, your world depends on every ounce of you to engage. Your participation might save you, but inaction will probably leave you to die on a faded page with your footnotes all blown away. There is a circumstance where survival is everything only if you're capable of survival. You must go with Alice.

Fiction built on a pedestal of history. My kind of novel.

Ed Slater  

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Movie Review...Darkest Hour

If you have not paid $2 at Red Box to rent Darkest Hour, go do it now. Here's why: Miss Layton (Prime Minister Churchill's typist) creates a 10,000 volt electrified emotion you need to experience in this story, a documentary revelation tangential to World War 2; an inner feeling you've encountered genuine compassion. It's about guessing and knowing.

There are no battlefield scenes, there are no tank assaults, no artillery bombardments. There is only one war strategy, and Winston Churchill pondered, developed, and delivered his strategy for victory by meditating, listening, and injecting his own historical recollections of war's reality. Churchill proved something to his wife, George VI, Parliament, FDR, Miss Layton, and the little girl on underground subway train. It was about giving up. It was about what happens when you give up to a murderer who has no conception of the most powerful, ultimate force in the universe, but he's sure it's him.

Darkest Hour enumerates uncountable examples of Churchill's brilliance, rhetoric and commandments that all seemed to come into his mind inexplicably. Even Winston himself didn't know their origin. That's your challenge...where did his inner inspirations come from? I'm sure those inspirations came from a source too complex for humans to conceive. Yet, the screenwriter told the secret of saving Western civilization from the Huns without disclosing the corner stone of Churchill's monument to victory.

I'm going with Miss Layton and the little girl on the underground subway, whose hands God held gently and firmly.

Gary Oldman's acting ability is of the highest caliber. Anthony McCarten (writer) gets the gold scepter of the storyteller's art. This is a great film production.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Please Love me Anyway

Someday, these thoughts will dominate my fragile mind as I sit and stare at the wall. I'm getting to be way too old. My leaping tall buildings barely gets me off the mark and my landings are mini disasters. My twelve minute mile is just an entry in an old log book.
There's the imaginary race I signed up for this morning. It seemed I got a bad start. I'd like to explain that I may not have heard the starter's pistol, but I probably was letting something else distract me. I'm sure I didn't know which way to run. I'm certain I didn't know how far I'd have to go, and I was completely unaware of how big a load I'd have to carry with me.
I'm suspicious that the molassas I'm in came from natural causes. At least that's what I'd like to say. There was a time when I could high jump my own height (pretty good) and pole vault twice my height (not saying too much). Now, I'd fall flat and break something I probably wouldn't need anyway.
Memories like that light up my mornings and evenings when boredom and dullness try to dim things. I have an album that pulls incredible memories back to where I can see them again, and I tell visitors my album is the first thing I'd grab if the fire alarm sounds.
I get help every day. Actually, I've always had help, and there have been some times when I failed to say thank you. I regret those times, and I'm not sure I could ever make up for my slight. It's unlikely that I'll always be able to remember a good way to express my gratitude, so I've thought of a little gift of appreciation I'll try to remember to send...It's time. I'll tell a story or make a picture that will give a moment of hope. I'll describe some little thing you did that made me smile, and maybe it will give your memory a tingle. Knowing that I had a moment of joy could give you one, too. That's what I'll hope for.
On those times when I was grouchy, there was probably some trigger that's unimportant now. If I could have thought more about how my insensitivity would leave its toll, I wish I had thought it through before it happened. There were lots of times when I let circumstances sneak in and fool me, but now I realize it's because I wasn't prepared. If I could have thought through how to trust and rely on the Boy Scout motto, I'd have been better prepared. The same salve applied to those times when I was unkind, impatient, or insensitive would have been theraputic, too, and I wish I'd used some of it right away. It was right there in my kit with courteous, kind, and obedient.
If you try me with the memory test, I'll probably do pretty good. If the test is fifteen instructions, three only maybe with ifs and thens, six for a future consideration, two or three based on assumptions that may or not be right, and one with a high priority but at an unknown location, I'll fail. I'll remember fourteen, but that one that escapes me will be the one that's vital. Thank goodness I'm not in the bomb disposal business.
When I try to figure out who's to blame, I try to be objective about guessing and no crazy assumptions. Then, I remember that blame is just a game unless there's a lesson that will make tomorrow better. Excuse me for judging. If you're to blame for something it would be better if you'd just be up front about it. Everybody will think more of you. You won't suddenly become blameless, but that dose of humility will trigger something like the relief you get when you step out of a confessional.
I've been guilty and I've been innocent. The smoke that wisps up from my ears comes from those times when I really was innocent, but someone accused me, convicted me, and nailed me to the tree up there. It's hard on your mind when you realize you're defenseless in the process. There's actually a relief when you put your guilt to bed, but there's an everlasting snag in your psyche when you're nailed for being innocent.

So there's the debilitation of my body and mind that could tempt you to want less of me. It wouldn't be unexpected for you to do fewer visits, shorter talks, or a complete walk-away. But, please love me anyway. When we're together, please be kind and patient. Please accept me with my three year old behaviors, because they're all I've got right now. Humor my self-centeredness and my forgetfulness. I'll probably remember things that happened sixty years ago and go blank on your last sentence. You won't send me to get two things at the supermarket, because I'll probably fail. Don't let me wander through the neighborhood without a tracker or an ID badge on a lanyard. Please just accept me just the way I am. Please. Someday, you'll need to ask for the same things, and let's pray a someone who loves you unconditionally is there with you.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dear One,

Jeanie and I have come to some pretty important conclusions as we've made our way through the tough parts of life. We've been scared and we've been unsure. We've been on a couple of brinks, but there have been ropes and anchors that kept us safe. Not that we knew what we were doing or that we planned ahead, but there were angels posing as parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, and friends who led us here to what we now regard as heaven on earth.

Heaven was brought to Jeanie and me by a thoughtful and compassionate creator. We thank our maker every day at least three times, but I know that's not nearly enough. We owe everything to someone else and we try to be grateful as much as we can.

Your parents have an angel in you. I've concluded you (and we) are not here to just be background characters in someone else's story, but instead we're main characters who have had an impact on everyone we've ever met (and they on everyone they have ever met). Everyone you have ever spoken to would be different without you. We're all connected in some way, and we are better because of you. Of course, your parents are better because of you, too. They're so fortunate. Just like us. Thank you for being an influence in our lives.

We pray that your tests and medical interventions bring you relief and good health. I believe the creator of the universe also created the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and the cure for every affliction. Your cure has already been created. Although we will never be capable of understanding the details of creation, I believe our mission should be to start the search for answers and solutions and cures and never give up. Hoping and searching and never giving up are blessings, not burdens.

Love from Ed and Jean

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Answer to Every Question

You're going to want to write this answer on the palm of your hand so you won't forget it. It's the answer to every question. It's the answer you've suspected for a long time, but you were not sure. I'll help you to understand and have confidence you know for sure the one answer to every question.
In order to understand this, let's ask the right first question.
William, did you create the Universe?
“No, sir”
A very good answer. Bold, direct, believable. Let's ask someone else.
Cecil, did you create the Universe?
“No. Certainly not me. God did.”
Now, we're getting someplace. We have a handle on two people who claim they did not create the Universe, and we have a clue as to who did. Good answer, Cecil. Thank you.
Melody, do you agree with Cecil? Do you believe him when he says there's no way he himself created the Universe, but he's pretty sure God did it?
“Yes, I agree with Cecil. He looks like he has an honest face. And, I think everyone in this place will agree that a power bigger than any of us created the Universe.
Thank you, Melody, Cecil, William. Now, I want you to try this: God created the Universe and every thing. I brought this grain of sand from a beach I was recently walking on. This grain of sand probably was something larger some time ago; maybe it was in a rock or part of a mountain. Maybe its elements (like silicon and oxygen) came from some other kind of thing, like a planet or a meteor. How was this grain of sand created? You already know.
I have a piece of paper here with a question written on it. It says “What is the square root of 15,129? You'll be able to find the answer. Many people have found it before, and it's right there in your smart phone. But you can't claim to have created the answer. You just found it. Remember, today I'm trying to figure out if the answer to every question has already been created. I think the answers to all the questions have already been created although humans haven't found all of them yet.
I know all of this seems to be almost meaningless, but it's not. Here's why: The answer to every question has already been created, the solution to every problem has already been created, and the cure for every ailment has already been created. If you and your spouse are on the brink of divorce and you have concluded there's no solution, no resolution, no going back, I have news that you may or may not like. The solution is just hidden from you, but it exists. Yes, your solution exists. Others have found theirs and you can too.
If your loved one is suffering with a terminal disease, there is a cure. The cure for every disease has already been created, but we haven't had the ability to discover each and every one. Not yet.
Peaceful solutions to every conflict have already been created, but some conflicts will erupt into wars anyhow because the right people haven't discovered or chosen to apply the solutions.
It's because of you and me. We're frail and we're incompetent. We're busy with ourselves, not others. We have our heads down looking at our own feet and thinking about that grain of sand inside one of our shoes that's causing discomfort. At least I am. God created the solution for the discomfort and in a minute or two I'll put that solution into action.
Some solutions can be found in history, where the've been discovered before by people confronted by the same problems we have. Reading and understanding history would make me less incompetent. Some solutions are also time sensitive. Here's a question you probably can't answer today, but you'll be able to answer it someday when you no longer need to do so. Does anybody know what the Power Ball numbers will be for next Wednesday? If so, shout them out. We could argue as to whether God has created those specific numbers already, or whether He'll wait to create them Wednesday night. All in His time.
Accepting the idea that God has already created every thing and that every answer is available for us to discover gives me hope that we actually can do it given enough time.
There's been a lot written about hope. The Apostle Paul clarified to the Christian Church in Rome where one source of hope can be found. He told them hope comes from the good character qualities of men and women, people who patiently and persistently work to find answers.
Write this on your hand: never give up. The answer is there, guaranteed, because God never fails.

Never give up.

Why Aren't Robots Boosting Economic Productivity?

Evan Horowitz has succeeded in usurping the spotlight of fame by making it to the front page (the entire page, not shared) of the May 7th 2017 Boston Globe's Business Section. Leslie Becker gets credit for graphics, depicting a conveyor line throwing products and workers to a heap of trash.

Every new industrial robot costs between 3 and 6 human jobs, says the MIT, Yale alum report. I get it. I'd better believe that industrial robots are not good for America, stunting economic growth and stranding six workers per robot in under employment situations. However, there are assumptions, conclusions, and facts. Let's see how they match up.

Contention 1: ...robots are failing to boost output or make the economy more productive.
The author has leapt over the devious chasm of cause and effect. There are hundreds of causes of low and cyclic output, the most basic cause being supply and demand. Manufacturers don't produce widgets they can't sell. The effect of robots on the American economy cannot be measured except by taking millions of factors into account.

Contention 2: ...when an auto manufacturer installs cutting edge robotic arms...the company is supposed to become more efficient allowing consumers everywhere to reap the benefit of less-expensive, robot-welded cars.
Industrial robots almost always make the car making process more efficient. Auto manufacturers serve their shareholders by increasing company value. Manufacturers make a choice whether to (a) reduce prices and sell higher quantities of cars or (b) keep prices the same and sell the same number of cars, reaping more per-unit profit. Company value goes up either way, but consumers benefit from lower prices only if the price of cars goes down (a). Shareholder equity goes up in both (a) and (b).

Contention 3: ...while they might lay off some assembly line workers, in theory those workers could move into high-demand jobs in other fields, like health care.
Without a myriad of other factors, the theory works. But, other factors are dominant, like the cost of re- education and who pays, the temptation to stay at home collecting unemployment benefits, a scarcity of jobs readily available with hourly rates of $45/hour and 12 weeks paid vacation, family leave provisions, retirement contributions, medical insurance, proximity of home to work, sick pay, etc. These factors count as reasons not to scramble to quickly get a new job after being laid off. If high-demand jobs like health care were easy, tempting, and available, workers would have jumped the assembly line ship already.

Contention 4: ...our increasingly robot-driven world isn't living up to the great techno-utopian promise, namely when machines do the work, humans will reap the rewards.
Ask any CEO: would you invest shareholders' equity in robots if someone could not reap the rewards? He'd laugh at you. Of course someone reaps the rewards. Rewards go to the bold and the hard working citizens always trying to do better and be better. Otherwise an enterprise would simply be a charity.

Contention 5: ...recent economic research suggests the harm robots are causing human workers is real...nobody in the local community really gains from the arrival of robots: not managers, not college grads, not even those with advanced degrees.
There's someone who is not being harmed: the shareholder investors and the company maintenance technicians who service the robots.

Hook, line, and sinker: MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Yale collegue Pascual Restrepo packed chicken and noodle theories and over cooked assumptions into this Boston Globe takedown of corporate America without telling the rest of the story. The rest of the story is that corporate America is not made up of buffoons. Everything affects everything else in a free market economy. Using some survey statistics and stifling others unbalances any conclusions toward the leanings of the authors, who have shown themselves to be agenda driven. So, what can we do? (from Apricot Pie that first bite, 2014) ...listen to every voice and consider how every lesson can increase the quality of your life. Hopefully, your goals will ratchet upward in tune with every need to adapt to the world as it changes (and change is inevitable.)