Monday, February 8, 2016

The Culture of Fear – The Media and Drug Companies: Marriage Made in Hell

First appeared on Blogcritics.

My father used to say that TV reporters never met a disaster they didn’t like. I used to think that he was just making a joke, but as I have grown older I see how true his observation has become. Everything is doom and gloom, and this holds true for all media.

Sign on to the Internet and you are inundated with headlines playing on your worst fears about your health – "Four Signs of a Heart Attack," "Serious Causes of Your Back Pain," "Seven Foods to Never Eat," "Why Doctors Want You to Take Meds," and so on. People are so susceptible to this kind of manipulation, and if you click on one of these links, disappointingly you will be usually led to a long video presentation hawking some kind of alternative product. Sadly, it's all about making money and has little to do with what is best for you.

As for the so called "news," a pernicious attack on our senses is thrust upon us by the media every day and is overwhelming in our lives. We are bombarded with negativity; whether the stories are about politics, North Korea, Iran, ISIS, fracking, global warming, or the Zika virus, they are all manufactured to cause anxiety and fear among we who keep watching because we have been conditioned to believe those promoting the problem also have an answer to it.

There is an old saying that is true more than ever for the media – “If it bleeds it leads.” So you get all sorts of stories about murder and mayhem and the usual warning not to watch the graphic images that are coming on screen. Of course, then many viewers continue watching and see how ugly the world can be.

I have long complained that the media will focus its attention on perpetrators after an incident. I refuse to watch these reports, but many do under the guise of understanding the mind of a killer. I know I for one don’t want to know anything about the killer or the reasons why he/she became one. Giving exposure to mass murderers or child abusers is like a recruiting tool for the next psycho longing for fifteen minutes of infamy.

One just has to look at the current political campaign for the presidency to see how the media has used it to pump fear into the electorate. We are bombarded with negative stories about the candidates. Whether it’s Mrs. Clinton’s emails, Mr. Sanders being a socialist, or Mr. Trump’s outlandish comments, the observations we can take away are all derogatory. The candidates do not help matters by throwing as much mud as possible at one another.

fear2The Zika virus story is another example of the media using a story to foment fear. Today I heard several headlines on the radio or television that were something like “Zika Virus Passed By Sexual Activity,” “The Zika Virus Causing People to Cancel Vacations,” and “Zika Virus Threatens All 50 States.” Then the latest thing I heard was that President Obama was requesting $1.8 billion to battle Zika, but wanted Americans to know there was no need to panic. If you are listening to all this what are you supposed to believe? The sole purpose involved here is to scare the audience and make certain it reads, watches, or listens to the story.

More doom and gloom comes to you each day from the pharmaceutical companies. They advertise everything from anti-depressants to sexual performance drugs, and their ads are as slick as they come. Usually we are shown someone who is at first suffering in some way – these people are in hopeless states before learning about the drug in the ad. Suddenly the screen becomes bright, people are smiling, and all is right with the world because of that magic pill. If you hang on long enough to listen to the side effects, which many times will include something like “and can cause death,” you might think twice about taking that pill no matter what your symptoms are.

According to the so-called experts in the media, there is something wrong with everything we like or enjoy doing. Sodium and sugar are agents of evil; soda and juice are like arsenic and old lace, and beer, cold cuts, and desserts are enemies of the state. Literally anything we like to eat or drink comes under some kind of warning with a skull and crossbones over it. Again, this is the operation of causing fear and making us feel that only the source broadcasting these admonitions has the answer to solve the problem.

fear4Perhaps the most extensive media coverage goes to disasters. Give news people an earthquake, blizzard, tsunami, hurricane, or tornado to cover, and they are as giddy as children on the last day of school before summer vacation. Each time something like this happens we are subject to overwhelming coverage of the event as if there is no other news anywhere in the world.

At this point the media no longer does its job of reporting the news. Now the media has become our watchdog, our overseer, and our conscience. The days of relying on the media to convey what’s happening in the world are gone; now its purpose is to incite, to condemn, and most of all frighten viewers and readers. The incongruous theory used must be this – 

The more we frighten people the more they will tune in, and in the end the media’s concern is nothing so benevolent as our health and well-being but ratings. Ratings equal money, and that is what drives all this fear mongering.

So if you have had it with the culture of fear created by the media and its kindred spirit the pharmaceutical companies, change the channel or turn off the TV. The ultimate power still lies in your hands – the remote control.

Photo Credits: cnn, foxnews

Friday, February 5, 2016

Movie Review: Joy – JLaw Keeps This Clunker From Sinking

When director David O. Russell gets things right, as in films such as The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, he can take the viewer on a magic carpet ride; however, when he gets things too garbled in movies like I Heart Huckabees or American Hustle, the rug gets pulled out from under us. Sadly, this is the case with his latest film, Joy, based on the real story of Long Island mop queen Joy Mangano, played by Oscar nominated Jennifer Lawrence.

Russell gets mired in a tale about Joy’s crazy family, which admittedly has some funny moments in the film, but it becomes too much of a Willy Wonka soap opera – with joy’s mother Terri (Virginia Madsen) basically living in her bed watching what else but a soap opera. Her ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez) and father Rudy (Robert De Niro) share a basement with a stretch of unrolled toilet paper as the demarcation line between their living spaces, while Joy lives upstairs with her two kids but mostly sleeps on the sofa or the stairs. Welcome to the dysfunctional Mangano family!

Russell uses flashbacks to show us the irrepressibly creative young Joy (Isabella Crovetti-Cramp) who had big ideas that were shot down by her parents. Only her loving grandmother Mimi (Dianne Ladd) shows belief in her ideas, but after Rudy and Terri divorce there is a 17-year period of suppression of her dreams. Joy grows up, marries and divorces Tony after having two children, and ends up working in a nowhere airport job for Eastern Airlines.

One of the more difficult things to swallow here is having De Niro playing what is now his show up and say the lines role of the moment (see The Intern for what I mean). He seems thoroughly exhausted and tuned out by playing the role, but some may take this as getting into character. It just seems like such a waste to have the actor that once ate up his parts with such zeal in films like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver now seemingly chewing on the script.

The saving grace of the film is Jennifer Lawrence. One fears that JLaw is taking on too many roles now that success has come her way, but she continues to surprise and delight in each part, sinking herself into the character and becoming imbued with the nuances of expression, accent, and mannerisms that display her acting chops.

joy-gallery4-gallery-imageJoy’s struggle to break free of the mundane snow-covered world of Long Island – where her father runs a garage and men are plinking bottles in the lot next door – is what makes this film worth watching. She wants more for her children and for herself, and the thing that I don’t remember ever seeing before in her films is Jennifer playing the part of a parent, and she does so convincingly here.

When Rudy starts seeing Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), a woman from a dating service, Joy gets invited to a party on her boat. During the festivities, Joy breaks a wine glass and, as she is mopping up the red wine, cuts her hands on the shards in the mop. The bright idea for the Miracle Mop comes to her after this incident, and she goes about making drawings and eventually a prototype that she can show people. With some financial backing from Trudy, Joy is ready to take her mop to the people and make her dreams come true.

The problem here is that there are long stretches of yawn time in this story, and even when the conflict finally gets interesting – the company manufacturing the mop tries to steal Joy’s idea and leave her mired in debt – there is too much filler and the supporting actors seem to be bumping into each other looking for something to do.

joy-gallery2-gallery-imageOne of the biggest disappointments is Bradley Cooper as Neil Walker, an executive at QVC – the place where Joy’s mop finally gets its exposure. Cooper and Lawrence usually have such great chemistry (see Silver Linings Playbook). His presence and the possibility of romance between Neil and Joy could have elevated this film to something memorable, but Russell doesn’t capture that in what is basically an extended cameo for Cooper.

The inherent difficulty in this story is that it is ostensibly about a woman who invented a different kind of mop. While Russell deserves some slack because it is a rough assignment to make the mop thing interesting, he brought in actors like Cooper, De Niro, Ladd, Madsen, and Lawrence who could have knocked the ball out of the park if only they had the right bats in their hands. Sadly, besides Lawrence, they all strike out swinging in this one.

Ultimately, Joy is a series of misfires and the only bang for the buck is Lawrence’s powerful performance. Getting to see Jlaw do her thing may be worth the price of admission, but in the end Joy does not do enough to put a smile on your face.

Photo Credits:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Movie Review: Concussion – An Inconvenient Truth for the NFL

Concussion, director Peter Landesman’s powerful and disturbing film, premiered on December 25, 2015, right near the end of the regular National Football League season and before the January playoff schedule. The timing could not have been more appropriate.

Starring Will Smith as Nigerian born pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, the film is based on the true story of the man’s attempt to get the NFL to face the reality of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the pernicious brain damage that many of its players suffer during careers of multiple hard knocks.

Based on Jeanne Marie Laskas’s GQ article “Game Brain,” Concussion pulls no punches as it uses real names and situations and chronicles the ordeal of Dr. Omalu, who not only suffers professionally but also personally in his quest to reveal to the world what the NFL was doing its best to keep under wraps.

Set in Pittsburgh, perhaps an American city with an identity more aligned with its football team (The Steelers) than any other, Omalu works in the County Coroner’s Office and starts studying the case of Mike Webster (David Morse), a Hall of Fame player who ended up living and dying in his car. As Omalu examines his brain, he finds severe injury to it and then, after watching videos of NFL games, makes the connection that players are like soldiers on the front lines of a war that is very damaging to their heads.

Smith plays Omalu with deliberately controlled mannerisms and an impressive Nigerian accent; it is a tempered, multivalent performance that builds as the rising action takes us through one player after another that is fighting with sound and fury against a condition that is baffling and leaves them feeling as if their efforts signify nothing.

After being asked to help adjust a young immigrant woman to America, Omalu takes Prema (a lovely Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to his home and attempts to school her in how to succeed in this country. After spending so much time together, they end up falling in love and eventually marry. His relationship with Prema offers Omalu some comfort during his ordeal of battling one of the most powerful organizations in the country.

f550f85cd8ef873edaa5a4d140815e7a6e5121c1Omalu forms an alliance with former NFL neurological consultant Dr. Julian Bailes (a terrific Alec Baldwin) who used to treat Webster. Together they attempt to shed light on what is happening in the NFL. As the body count continues to grow – with more suffering players killing themselves – Omalu examines their corpses and concludes they all suffered from CTE. This sets him on a collision course with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Luke Wilson) and the powerful and lucrative machine that he oversees.

Concussion is an honest look at a very inconvenient truth that for too long was overlooked by the NFL. Smith does an amazing job in what is probably his best and most understated performance in films. He conveys Omalu’s zeal to make change for the better but also his fear that he has stepped into dark waters that might threaten to sink his professional and personal life.

The film comes during a time when the NFL would like the conversation to be about the Super Bowl and not about the ugly truth that haunts every professional gridiron in the country. A recently released NFL report reveals that in 2015 there were 271 reported concussions – an increase from 206 reported in 2014 – and the frightening thing about this is the “reported” part.

We cannot imagine how many more go unreported by players, but NY Jets fans will well remember that wide receiver Brandon Marshall revealed last year that he played with a serious concussion in the past because he was in a contract year. In a letter addressed to Dr. Omalu Marshall wrote:
If I missed games, my value would suffer, and I didn't want to lose the security I was so close to having for me and my family. So I played through it, and I promised my wife I would never do that again. But for two weeks, I was woozy. I couldn't close my eyes without losing my balance. I definitely had suffered a concussion and kept playing like many other players.
So we don’t know how many players just like Marshall are out there, but we do know CTE is a real affliction that will continue to affect NFL players unless the league’s culture changes dramatically. While the NFL under Goodell has come a long way in recognizing CTE as a reality, the frightening thing is that players like Marshall may suffer a concussion and keep on going for whatever personal reasons – and this decision could end up costing them their lives.

Concussion is not just a great film with a solid lead actor in Smith, it is also a wake-up call for the NFL, its players, and its fans. CTE is like a plague affecting professional football players in this country. Concussion sends a resounding message that the NFL and its players have to know and face the truth about the condition and that it can no longer be business as usual, no matter how inconvenient that is for all involved.

Photo credits: Sony Pictures

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Movie Review: The Revenant – Revenge Is In The Hands Of The Creator

First appeared on Blogcritics.

Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, director Alejandro G. Iñấrritu’s The Revenant is a gruesome tale of pain and loss and yet remarkably also an inspiring tale of survival and the integrity of the human spirit.

The incredible (based on a true story) journey of frontiersman Hugh Glass (Oscar nominated Leonardo DiCaprio) begins with him and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) as part of a group of trappers led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). They are deep in what was known in 1820 as northern Louisiana Territory. Along on the trip is John Fitzgerald (Oscar nominated Tom Hardy) who has a hatred of Native Americans because they once tried to scalp him in the past.

After a violent attack by the Arikara tribe, many of the men in their group are slaughtered. Glass, Hawk, Henry, Fitzgerald, and some others do escape on a boat. Henry defers to Glass’s intimate knowledge of the area and decides to abandon the boat and cut through the rough country to get to Fort Kiowa. Fitzgerald opposes this move mostly because he resents Glass and his half Native American son.

During their difficult overland journey, Glass inadvertently disturbs a few grizzly bear cubs and incurs the wrath of their mother. In one of the most brutal scenes in the film, the bear gnaws away at Glass as he valiantly fights back. Glass eventually kills the bear but is gravely wounded. Henry and the others find him and tend to him as best as they can. For a time they even try carrying him but it proves too arduous over the difficult terrain.

revenant-gallery-04-gallery-imageFitzgerald argues that Glass is not going to survive these injuries and is holding them back. Henry decides to leave Glass with Fitzgerald, Hawk, and young Bridger (Will Poulter) with the understanding that they will wait until Glass dies and give him a proper burial. 

Henry and the rest are not gone too long before Fitzgerald tries to suffocate Glass, but Hawk intervenes and they fight. Fitzgerald kills Hawk, drags away his body, and lies to Bridger that Hawk has been taken by the Arikara.
Although Bridger protests, Fitzgerald is soon digging a shallow grave, dragging Glass into it, and covering him with dirt. Fitzgerald takes Glass’s rifle and everything else from him, but Bridger leaves Glass a canteen. 

After they are gone Glass somehow manages to drag himself out of the grave and thus the figurative and literal revenant embarks on a grueling journey in which he will battle to survive in order to return to the fort and get justice for Hawk and himself.

To tell much more would really be spoiler territory, but the general focus during the rest of the film involves DiCaprio doing everything he can to overcome the elements and avoid the Arikara. His performance captures the struggle with broad and subtle nuances, and flashbacks remind us of the love he had for his Native American wife (Grace Dove) and how he lost her during an attack when Hawk was little.

revenant-gallery-22-gallery-imageAt one point a starving Glass is assisted by Hikuc, a friendly Pawnee (Arthur Red Cloud). Glass and Hikuc exchange stories (both have lost their wives and children), and though Glass seeks revenge Hikuc does not. He tells Glass, “Revenge is in the hands of the creator.” Glass considers this but still also wants to make Fitzgerald pay for what he has done.

Iñấrritu’ manages to keep the film moving briskly, even though there are moments that slow down but do not diffuse the power of the action. The landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful, and the harsh environment is another character in a sense, an obstacle for Glass to overcome and a no less formidable antagonist than Fitzgerald.

In some ways the movie is really two films – one about Glass overcoming extraordinary circumstances and the other about the nature of colonization and the destruction of the Native American way of life. While the Arikara may seem brutal and murderous, they are not much different than the grizzly bear trying to save her cubs. The Arikara Chief (Anthony Starlight) is on a quest to rescue his daughter Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk'o) who has been kidnapped by trappers.

Thus the film is about families shattered and men trying to right wrongs done to them. Glass uses all his frontier knowledge to try to forge ahead and survive, while the Chief does the same to track those responsible for what happened to his daughter.

revenant-gallery-05-gallery-imageThis is DiCaprio's best performance to date – he inhabits Glass and breathes life into what is a difficult role to pull-off. Hardy is excellent as the unapologetic killer and thief who sees the world as unfair and is determined to get his share.

The rest of the cast does a great job, and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is stunning. Add a resonant musical score by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Graeme Revell, and this nominee for Best Picture certainly makes a case for being worthy of 12 Oscar nominations.

This is a difficult movie to watch with no comic relief to break the tension. Still and all you will be enthralled by the scenery, repelled by the brutality, and captivated by the powerful performances that make The Revenant a must see film before watching the Oscars.

Photo Credits:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Movie Review: Creed – This Rocky Sequel Will Make You a Believer

First appeared on Blogcritics.

Director Ryan Coogler’s Creed is one of those films that surprises and delights you. Coogler, who also co-wrote the screenplay, stays true to the basic formula that made the previous films work (this is number 7 if you are counting), and Creed stands as the second best movie in the series after the original Rocky.

Of course, the ace up Coogler’s sleeve is the presence of Rocky himself – Sylvester Stallone, who slips into wearing that rumpled black fedora in an Oscar nominated performance. Stallone looks the part of an aging former boxer – slightly punch drunk, weary from years of abuse, and worn by the difficulties life has thrown at him. After being on top of the world as a champ, he knows what it is like to lose everything – now living modestly in his old house and running the restaurant named for his late wife Adrian (Talia Shire).

Still, at heart Rocky Balboa is a fighter, and thus when young Adonis Johnson (a terrific Michael B. Jordan) appears on the scene asking Rocky to train him, at first Rock wants no part of it. When Adonis reveals that he is the illegitimate son of Rocky’s former ring foe and friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky comes around and agrees to help the kid out.

There is a back story for Adonis, who grows up not knowing who his father was until Creed’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) pays him a visit in a Los Angeles juvenile detention center, where he has already established a name for himself as a fighter. Mary Anne, despite the fact that Adonis is the son of a woman with whom her husband had an affair, takes the boy in and raises him as her own.

Now an adult, Adonis lives well in the Creed mansion, but he quits his job and has bigger plans for himself. Wanting to make it as a boxer but not in his father’s shadow, Adonis goes by the name Johnson when he fights. After leaving home and going to Philadelphia to meet Rocky, Adonis eventually trains and starts getting fights.

After one fight someone reveals Adonis’s true identity to the media – and this opens up internal and external conflicts for the young man and his trainer. While Adonis is worried about living up to his father’s legacy, Rocky is trying to do his best to train his old friend’s son but is mindful of the price the kid will have to pay now that his heritage is revealed.

There are side stories with Adonis having a relationship with Bianca (a radiant Tessa Thompson), a young singer who lives in an apartment below his. Rocky also has to deal with a medical diagnosis that could be life threatening, and the extended metaphor involved is old fighters don’t give up and they never will fade away either.

Great narrative touches bring closure to some Rocky story lines involving his wife Adrian, her brother Paulie, and Rocky’s son. All of these things feel right and become woven into the fabric of the tale about a grizzled old boxer helping to train a younger one, similar to the first Rocky when old Mickey (Burgess Meredith) trains Rocky.

creed2At the center of the film is Jordan, a talented young actor who explodes on the screen as a dynamic and powerful presence. He makes Adonis strong yet vulnerable, smart but somewhat naïve, loving and yet hardened because of his past. All these things come through in an indelible performance that most definitely is Oscar worthy.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Rocky film without the appearance of a tough, big bad opponent. In this case it is “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew) as the light heavyweight champ whose manager Tommy Holiday (Graham McTavish) convinces him that a title bout against the son of Apollo Creed would be a big deal.

The boxing scenes are excellent – filled with blood, sweat, and an amazing choreography of punches and clutches and corner chats between Rocky and his protégé. Coogler manages to capture the essence of what made the first Rocky such a success, while paying homage to the previous films and the city of Philadelphia as well.

creed1Along the way the strength of the film is the relationship that develops between Rocky and Adonis. Rocky becomes the father figure that Adonis never knew, and Adonis is the son that Rocky somehow let go away. In this way both men not only show respect for each other but the memory of Apollo, the father and friend they both have lost.

Creed is not just a great boxing movie but a fine film. Stallone should be credited for taking this role and doing it with grace and dignity, yet still pulling no punches as a former fighter with a heart of gold. He also wisely yields to Jordan as his successor in the ring and in the film series.

Go see Creed; I guarantee it will make you a believer!

Photo Credits: Warner Brothers

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trump Bows Out of Next Debate – The Art of the Steal

I have heard dozens of pundits and talking heads spewing venom over Donald Trump’s latest antic – bowing out of the next Republican presidential candidate debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday evening – and most of them have missed the whole point here. 

They have called Trump a spoiled brat, a “fraidy cat” scared of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, or a sore loser who doesn’t play by the rules. All of these descriptions are way off mark by a wide margin.

Trump is doing what he does best – he is playing his “trump card” if you will – by bowing out of the debate he is making it known that he is clearly not any part of the establishment. On the far end of the spectrum from Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders (who also is way out of the establishment of the Democratic party) – Trump is saying that he is not going and the hell with the rules. This may annoy GOP loyalists and Fox News fans, but Trump is putting his foot down and looks like a maverick or some kind of hero to his supporters.

What clearly is happening here is that Trump is playing an excellent game of poker. Whether you want to call it a trump card or not, what he has done is make the debate itself a casualty, and by default an unmitigated disaster for Fox News. This is the master at work – by bowing out of the debate, he is putting a spin on the event straight out of his bestselling book The Art of the Deal, by creating his own fundraising event in Des Moines on the same evening.

By pulling himself out of the center of the mix at the debate, Trump has manifested what you could call “the art of the steal.” He has taken the thunder away from the network, and no doubt the ratings along with it. I for one would have never tuned into any of these Republican debates except for one thing: to see what crazy thing Trump was going to say next. Now it is going to be a bore fest, almost worse than having to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians or The Bachelor (both of which I have never wasted time watching but have caught glimpses of as my family members tuned in).

bernie-sanders_650x400_41453087327On the Democratic side Bernie Sanders has also said he is skipping the next debate before the New Hampshire primary. No, he is not taking a page from Trump’s book but rather Sanders is doing this because he doesn’t want to run afoul of the Democratic National Committee when it has its next “sanctioned” debate.

Still it says something that both “outsiders” in this campaign will not appear at the last debates before the primary. Sanders and Trump are polar opposites, except for the fact that they are not considered insiders. I suppose that is their greatest appeal to their respective supporters.

T-2Everyone who talks about Trump says that he lays out his whole philosophy in The Art of the Deal, so I went to the library and started reading some of it. While it’s not a great read, it is interesting to get into what makes Trump tick.
Besides telling all about his rise to power and wealth starting with simple real estate deals in Brooklyn, the most important aspect of the book is his 11-step guide to success. His number one tip – Think Big! Well, I guess he has followed his own advice with his candidacy for President of the United States.

The thing that the book made clear to me is that Trump wants to see life as a business deal – and no deal is a good one unless you come out of it a winner. Trump has gone much farther than anyone thought he would or could in this process, and soon votes will be cast and then we shall see if it is deal or no deal for the Donald.

T-1As for Megyn Kelly, she has held her head high and also has spoken with great professionalism in regards to the situation. Trump may have said that he didn’t want to be at the debate because Kelly will be a moderator, and that doesn’t hurt Kelly but only helps her street cred among fellow journalists.

But make no mistake – Trump bowing out of this race has little or nothing to do with Kelly and everything to do with Trump having things go his way. To borrow a concept from Mad Men, Trump didn’t like what people were saying so he has changed the conversation.

The biggest question is will more people be talking about Donald Trump around the water coolers across the country on Friday morning than Megyn Kelly or any other candidate on that stage in Des Moines Thursday night? My bet is on Trump, and if that’s not “the art of the steal,” I don’t know what is.

Photo Credits: Fox News, NBC, CNN

Friday, January 22, 2016

Big Snow’s Coming – Should You Whine or Wine About It?

First appeared on Blogcritics.

The big storm is coming and everyone is going nuts, at least based on my observation of things happening today here in New York. Just the mention of the word “snow’ sends usually normal people into a frenzy, and everyone is whining about the impending deluge of white powder as if it were one of the seven plagues.

Judging from what I saw in my local supermarket, we are going to be trapped and isolated for the duration like those guys in the Kurt Russell movie The Thing. Here, instead of an alien killing machine, our opponent is the great blizzard of 2016. Man the battle stations!

People were loading up on multiple cases of water, gallons of milk, loaves of bread, vats of butter, and boxes of snacks and cookies. The line at the delicatessen counter wound around the store like the ones I see in Staples the week before school starts, and all the people in the store were complaining about the impending storm and had this look of despair on their faces as if the zombie apocalypse was upon us.
Realizing that I could not wait on those lines in that store, I went to several other stores only to find the same thing. I then raced over to my local CVS where I happily found the shelves still stocked with items on my list; however, in this venue a long line of people were waiting to purchase snow shovels, ice picks, and rock salt. I wondered, “What happened to their snow shovels from last year?” I bit the bullet and waited on line to get one loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, and a pound of butter, hoping all the other people are wrong about this one.

Next stop was the liquor store because in my vast past experience, nothing goes better with the view of falling snow outside the window than a nice glass of wine. Here too people were crowding the aisles pushing shopping carts filled with bottles of vodka, gin, bourbon, and wine. Once again I thought they were preparing for an extended event of some kind. I purchased of few bottles of wine, and mercifully this merchant has a separate line for people buying five bottles or less. Thank you, Mr. Choi.

Finally, I ended up at my local coffee shop to get one last cup of strong Joe before the storm hit. The usual suspects were sitting at the tables, including my old friend Manny. I always like to joke with him, so I asked if he was getting ready for the blizzard, but he was reading the newspaper and glanced up at me from under the brim of his Mets cap with a sly grin, “What blizzard?”

Okay, I know his game and I prod him. “Hey, I hear the Nationals are going to take Cespedes away from us.”

Manny’s face turns all serious and he groans, “You can either whine about the storm or wine about it” as he pointed to two bottles of Chablis in a bag next to his table.

“Yes,” I said nodding, “yes indeed.”

As I was about to leave he yelled, “And Cespedes ain’t going nowhere. He loves New York.”
Ah, Manny, I hope you’re right. Of course, last week he was predicting The Steelers would win the Super Bowl, but that’s another story.

bliz1I am happily home tonight with the wine ready and the fire blazing. The kids are talking about building a snowman tomorrow, and the wife is watching TV. All is well here until when duty calls and the shovel does too. 
Ah, my aching back!

As for everyone else, take advice from old Manny. You can either whine about the storm or sit back, enjoy it, and have a glass of wine. I am going for the latter, and I suggest you should too.

Happy shoveling!

Photo Credits: victor lana, news12 long island