Monday, July 28, 2014

Movie Remakes and Sequels - Don't Reward Mediocrity

A writer writes!

As I get older in life, I notice that movies from my youth are being remade.  The obvious reason is to financially take advantage of those who were not around when the original movie was a financial success.  That seems like lazy movie making. There are plenty of script ideas out there as numerous writers feel they have a story that should be made into a movie.  But instead of risking cash on a new idea, producers and the movie industry would rather remake movies or do numerous sequels to an original movie.  Give the public the mediocre safe movies.

Over the years, some of the remakes have been quite good.  But, more times they are not.  Unfortunately the public at large tends to reward the mediocrity of remakes or sequels by paying unoriginal prices for the same movie or the same story line with a few plot changes.  Among the better remakes was the 1990s remake of "Cape Fear".  The remake featured the artistry of Robert De Niro.  How can you go wrong with De Niro in a remake?  Among the better sequels was "Godfather Part II" and although some didn't like it, I thought "Godfather III" was also good.

Of course some characters such as James Bond 007, seem to fit the sequel quite well.  They tend to be another chapter in the outrageous life of the main character.  Also, I think we are now into the sixth or seventh Batman movie??  Those movies get a pass!  Although I've never watched one all the way through, "Harry Potter" films seem to fall into the area where the audience will keep coming back for more even if the film just has scenes of the main character going back and forth to the bathroom.

After I watch some films, I do wonder "what were they thinking?"  Now I look for movies that contain new or different subject matter.  A new treatment of an idea or a character who really has something meaningful to say.  What happened to all the Great movies that would come out each year?  Movies where the story and the acting, not the special effects was why you went to see it.  How many different ways can you blow up something? I think I've counted 213 so far from movies I've seen in the past years.

Instead of paying your $5 to $12 for regurgitated ideas, hold out for a movie that has something to say about the human condition and experience.  Don't reward mediocrity and a rehashing of what worked before.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Driving in Chicago

A writer writes!

I'm in Chicago amongst the seemingly millions of people who have all decided to converge downtown, all at one time.  I've quickly learned that if you don't drive properly and keep traffic moving you get serenaded by a cascade of car horns beeping at you to comply and keep traffic moving or get out of the way.

I haven't quite deciphered what each type of horn blast means. There is the short horn blast which I think means "go ahead stupid". There's the long horn blast which seems to be a blast of profanity. Then there's the constant horn blowing which just seems to be a letting out of frustration.

Maybe someone has actually done a study of blowing car horns?  If so help me out before the people of Chicago surround me in a circle of cars and rain down upon me a thunderous shower of car horn blasts.

To keep me out of harms way, I've decided to park our car for the duration of the stay in Chicago.  We'll walk to wherever we need to go. A mile, three miles whatever.  No more car horns!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Royalty? - I don't Get it!

A writer writes!

I saw another item featured on television as being "news" which of course to me was not news.  My wife tells me they are human interest stories.  I would characterize the stories as human self adoration stories.

In this instance there was a story about new photos being published of the royal baby in Great Britain.  I think his name is George.  I couldn't but think why is this tradition continued in Great Britain to the point that people are actually financing the lifestyle of the royal family?  Yes, some members of the royal family travel around and do charitable deeds.  If they didn't I would even think less of this royal tradition than I currently do.

What makes the royal family any better than any other family?  We do.  We place upon them adoration and idolization based on a human need to have man made idols.  As with any family I wish the "royal family" all the best in the world.  But, I really don't care what the royal baby is wearing or what he likes to eat for breakfast.  As with all babies, I'm glad he is presumably healthy.  I do wonder what would the royal family do if the baby was disabled or had some illness that prevented him from living what we call a normal life?

I don't know how many social causes or philanthropic activities the royal family devotes time to.  But, it would seem that should be what they dedicate their lives too.  Making the world better than it is.

Until then, every time I hear a news story coming on about the royal family, I quickly turn to another channel.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reflections on Indiana Black Expo 2014

A writer writes!

The past years image of Black Expo was stained by a few people seeking attention by causing disruptions among youthful crowds.  The local media took advantage of the negative events by attempting to put anything bad that happened under the broad umbrella of Black Expo.  One local station had even labeled one disruptive offender the "Black Expo shooter".

During this year's Expo there were no violent events that could be tied to Black Expo.  Crowds were orderly, polite and best behavior was the norm.  It was a good respite from violence that has periodically dotted the city this year.  One of those recent events was the killing of a policeman several weeks ago.   But this past weekend, everyone seemed to cooperate to give the city a well deserved break from the violence.

I hope the media wasn't too disappointed that they were not able to display on the nightly news, scary scenes of African Americans running wild in the streets as the media attempted several years ago.  Instead the media had to go to plan 2 and show police continuing to attempt to keep beer drinking crowds under control in another part of town where no Black Expo activities existed.

One thing I noticed is that the streets were relatively empty of people on Saturday morning and evening.  It seemed as if some people stayed away likely scared off by images the media displayed from past years.  But, the crowds will return and Black Expo will continue to get better.  Who knows one day we may have an Ethnic Expo in the city that combines all the cultural events that are now spread across the calendar year.  Wouldn't it be nice to see an event that intermingles all that the various cultures have to offer and display?  It could be an event held under one roof with all ethnic food vendors grouped together.  Businesses selling various wares could be grouped together also.  It is the logical evolution and the next step to bringing a more cohesive awareness to the various cultures of this world. Then we would have streets crowded and people learning about other cultures.  Maybe one day....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Indiana Pacers - Feeding Other NBA Teams Talent?

A writer writes!

The NBA free agent scenario, a distraction from our own daily lives is starting to wind down now. After Lebron James announced his return to Cleveland, other teams and players began to make decisions.  The Indiana Pacers had one "star" in the free agent mix, that being Lance Stephenson. Yesterday, Lance announced that he would be signing a contract with the Charlotte Hornets, ending his three year association with the Pacers.

Ironically Indiana's nemesis the Heat, also gained the talents of former Pacers, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts.  The Heat and Hornets are in the same conference as the Pacers.  Now in the upcoming season, Pacer fans will be able to see former players giving their all to defeat their former Pacer team and teammates.  As most Hollywood stories go, these players will likely have career nights against the Pacers or score the game winning basket with 1 second to go.  That's how it always seems to happen.

But, that is the new landscape of sports.  Players have more choices on where they will play. Whereas in the old days, "owners" could trade a player away on a whim and disrupt their entire life and the life of their family.  With economic freedom comes fewer player careers with one team.  I don't look forward to Lance Stephenson, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts coming back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to put on a show for the fans and to assist in their team beating the Pacers.  But, you can see it coming.  I will be interested in watching Larry Bird's face when those players are having career nights against the Pacers.  Practice your stone face Larry!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wanting to be a Citizen of the World

A writer writes!

I was wondering.  At one point did it become necessary for countries to develop immigration policies?  From my recollection of high school history lessons, thousands of years ago, people could travel and wander wherever they wanted.  They may not have been welcomed with open arms but they could at least get into the country.

Now you have to show vaccination records, and numerous types of identification just to cross over a country's border.  I understand the need for showing health related documentation.  Ask a Native American what happened to their culture due to chicken pox being delivered on infected blankets by settlers.

One think I know for sure, I can't travel into another country without some identification as to who I am, and a reason for traveling into the country.  So, if I wake up and decide, "I feel like traveling to Brazil today in South America!" I just can't hop on a plane or make a 35 hour drive there without having a passport and a reason for visiting the country.

That means I am not a citizen of the world.  But, that is what I want to be.  God created the world not people.  So, why can't I as a creation of God visit the places that God created for us to enjoy?  Russia, China, Europe.  I likely have to go through Customs in each country before I can get in and wander and explore the country.  It's not like I am from another planet in the solar system.

But, us civilized people on the planet Earth have established all types of barriers, physical, mental, social, economic, political, etc. to prevent us from just being citizens of the World.  We are stuck behind fences, establish laws to keep people out and some in, and pretty much just make being a human being more complicated that it should be.  Especially for those of us who just want to travel around the world neighborhood.

One thing the barriers accomplish is that it keeps us apart.  It keeps us from becoming unified.  It keeps us from having the ability to come to a better understanding of our creator.  It keeps us from reaching our full potential. It keeps us from understanding that we have common problems that need the attention of all the citizens of the world.  We also lose the ability to communicate openly with one another, although the internet is breaking down some of those barriers.

Maybe one day I can just be plain old Arnell Hill, citizen of the planet Earth. Until then, I guess I'd better keep my passport up to date.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Indianapolis Police Department In a No Win Situation - Changing Hiring Strategies

A writer writes!

An Indianapolis policeman was killed in the line of duty last Saturday.  The assailant and the policeman had contrasting lives.  The policeman was a Caucasian 20 year veteran of the Indianapolis police force.  He was married and enjoyed life with his wife through a variety of outdoor activities, some that allowed him to travel various parts of the world.  The assailant, a 25 year old Black man, initially was declared dead but was revived on the way to the hospital.  He had several criminal charges on his record dating back to when he was 16 years old.  There also was some mention that his father was involved with an incident with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD).  The family blamed IMPD for his father’s death.  

The Indianapolis Public Safety Director in an October 2013 interview noted that in a county that is 59 percent white, 84 percent of IMPD’s officers are white. Black residents make up 28 percent of the county’s population but only 13 percent of the police force.  Plus only 2 percent of police officers are Hispanic, a far cry fr om the population and a distressing number considering the unique challenges facing many Indianapolis Hispanic neighborhoods.

When the news displayed a photograph of the slain officer, I wondered if it would have mattered if Black policemen had been sent to the neighborhood where the deadly encounter occurred?  I grew up in the 1960s during a period when Black men were not treated well by White policemen.  I often heard about incidents where Black men were stopped for no reason, and mistreated because they were Black.  Some of that behavior still persists today.  In the 1970s I often heard reports on television news reports detailing statistics about the likelihood that the average Black man would die from violence before they reached the age of 30.  Television displayed the images of Rodney King being surrounded and beaten by several Los Angeles policemen.  Then the policemen were found not guilty of criminal charges regarding the incident.  Black male employment is much higher than that of White unemployment.  Those are some of the experiences and thoughts that Black men deal with.  Some of the images of the past mistreatment may fade away with time.  For now, those images and thoughts are still there.  There are other hurdles and societal barriers that Black men have to overcome to gain access to the same leveled playing field that others enjoy.

This is the background environment White policemen were sent into that Saturday night.  The odds of a conflict situation quickly escalating into violence should not have been surprising.  It was a setting for conflict.  A Black man for whatever reason carrying an armed weapon and White policemen with armed weapons.  Nighttime, a setting where understanding and respect are not at the forefront. There has been discussion that policemen servicing a community should culturally mirror the people whom they protect and serve.  In the case of the IMPD, the police force that responded that night was not in a position to keep peace.  Maybe as a minimum it is better to have predominantly policemen of the same race and culture as those they interact with.  I don’t have any statistics to back up that belief.  It would not hurt to see what would happen if the police responding to calls for help generally looked like those being policed.

I've heard comments on the news that twice the number of policeman hired this year are needed.  If I recall, the percentages of minorities is low among the 50 or so police recruits recently hired and now in training.  Sounds like these recruits will graduate the program and be cycled along with the current staff of police into future no win situations in Black neighborhoods in the heat and darkness of upcoming summers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Reverse Immigration the wave of the future?

A writer writes!

One of the more ridiculous statements I've read in the past 3 weeks was on a popular news website.  It stated that President Obama's policies on immigration enticed children of immigrants to come to the United States through the southern border.  That means that you had 6 and 9 year old children pouring over volumes of legal statutes and deciding, "Hey, these policies mean I should leave my country and walk over to the United States!"

It's not the immigration policies that enticed their parents to send them to the United States.  It might be the fact that the United States offers material, financial, and social benefits that South American countries are not offering.  It's the same reason why citizens of the United States relocate from one state to another.  The gaining state has conditions (whether it's cheaper housing, warmer climate, no state taxes, etc.) that benefits the citizens moving from one state to another.

I have yet to see residents of other states being turned back at the borders from relocating to a new state.  Maybe that will be the next evolution of immigration policy.  Will immigration between states be banned, especially if you are a minority?  Or if your income is less than $90,000 you may not be allowed to migrate to another state?

It's not Presidential policies that is behind the flight of people to the United States from impoverished countries.  They just want a higher standard of living and want to enjoy the comforts of life they see on television, or other visual media.

It's only a matter of time before we see reverse immigration starting.  Citizens of the United States will maintain their citizenship as Americans, but purchase cheap land in South America.  They will then build nice houses there that would cost big bucks in the United States to build.  They will then have a South American getaway to go to during Winter months.  The homes they leave behind will be rented via time shares to the immigrants who have come to the United States for better living conditions.

To see this theory in action, just drive downtown in any urban city in America.  You will see refurbished homes, new homes, condos, and apartments sprouting up in rapid order.  Gone are the old dilapidated homes formerly held by the poor.  The inner city poor migrate elsewhere and then those with money swoop down to recreate the neighborhood in the image they want.  Reverse immigration is the next evolution.  So, start checking on flights to South America now.  It's time to start searching for where to build your dream home.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Immigration Policy - If Native Americans had Turned Back "The Bus"

A writer writes!

The fourth of July took me to a relaxed family gathering followed by a journey to a minor league baseball game in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.  Our hometown team is named the “Indians”.  Absent   research, I’m assuming the Indianapolis and Indiana names have a Native American connection. The day before I watched a segment on the news about how residents of a town in California had prevented several buses of immigrants from entering the city.  My thought as I sat inside Victory Field watching the Indians play was that if Native Americans had taken the same stance when Europeans came to the Americas across the Atlantic Ocean maybe the scene before me wouldn’t be the same.  Instead of a stadium full of people with European backgrounds, possibly it would have been a different venue populated by Native Americans participating in some activity Native Americans enjoyed.

Maybe hundreds of years ago there were debates among Native American tribes about allowing European foreigners to enter the country where Native Americans were already established.  I can see Native Americans saying, “let’s send that boat back to where it came from”, and not let Europeans get off the boat to walk on their land.  If there are Native American historians out there I defer to them on the historical reaction that Native Americans had to these settlers.

Although Native Americans apparently chose not to repel the settlers in force, those in the California town who repelled the buses didn’t repeat the same generosity.  Did they foresee a repetition of what happened to Native Americans? Apparently hundreds of years ago the Native Americans did not feel threatened by the coming Europeans, initially.  But the residents of that California community felt threatened by a busload of children and others.  What did they fear?  Seeing their tax money partly go to paying for those immigrating to this country?   Fearing that they would somehow lose their jobs to immigrants?  Or was it just a mean “we don’t want you here” reaction? 

There was one thing that was certain; the welcome sign was not out in this California community.  Self survival, not a Christian spirit of love for the downtrodden drove these Californians to react the way they did.  I guess the United States doesn’t have a lot of resources to go around to others.  I wasn’t aware the resources of the country were dwindling.  Maybe I had better start stockpiling cans of food, and join the ranks of those protecting the border from the poor who want a better way of life.

So, on July 4th I found myself in Victory Field, watching the “Indians” minor league baseball team.  A capacity crowd of 14,000 was there, and I wondered if there was even one Native American among the crowd.  The crowd cheered as they started doing the “wave”.  I didn’t participate, as I didn’t want to join in the festivities as the “Indians” played baseball on the field.  Plus, I’m just not one to do what others are doing because they are doing it.  Later when it came time for the fireworks show, the crowd cheered the red, white, and blue fireworks explosions.  Yes, people have the right to cheer the anniversary of Independence Day as transplanted Europeans long ago celebrated their freedom from being governed by rulers from across the ocean.  But, somehow Independence Day also seems like one of the final events leading to the beginning of the near extinction of the Native American culture in northern America.  I somehow don’t think a large group of Native Americans were cheering and shooting fireworks on some obsolete reservation in the United States.

If only Native Americans had immigration policies in effect as the settlers came from Europe.  Who knows, that might mean I wouldn’t be writing this blog, as possibly I as an African American would not have been forcibly relocated to these United States of America to help the resettled Europeans build the economy.   But that’s another story…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Just Because You Could

A writer writes!

You forcefully took people away from their homes, their family, their freedom, their lives. You took them for your economic benefit.  You took them not acknowledging that they had the right to live just as you.  You didn't care.  You proclaimed yourself supreme with the right to play God and transform the futures of others into a system of slavery.  You raped African women as you were unable to control your sexual desires and lusts.  You found yourself to not be the Christian you thought you were. Later you railed against inter racial marriages forgetting your rapist actions against African women whom you forced into slavery.  You forget that you are responsible for the same things you railed against.

You annihilated an entire race native to the land you now call home.  You destroyed a culture rich in history, so you could selfishly establish your own domain.  You chose not to share, instead you took what you proclaimed as yours.  You established selfishness, uncaring attitudes and a class society in the new world.  You put materialism over God.  You lied to God every day and told God that the people he created who did not look like you were lesser than you.  You spewed endless hatred from your mouth and through your actions against other people, just because their skin color was different from yours.  You murdered innocent people as if they were evil, when it was you who was possessed with an evil soul.

You did all of these things because you could.  Choices that you knowingly made.  But, you have forgotten all of the negatives of your past.  You now basque in the glow of your materialistic lives.  You hide behind your four walls of "success".  You only look forward, not to the sins of the past.

True greatness is acknowledging your mistakes and committing to actions that set a course to reverse the wrongs of the past.  Humble yourself and acknowledge your Creator who awaits the positive actions that show you care about your fellow human beings.

Just because you can.