Try a Little Kindness or the Kindness of strangers

I was not going to do a post today. I have been doing on average two a day for a while now and thought, ‘what the heck, I can take a break now and then, can’t I?’ The obvious answer being yes as I don’t have to sing for my supper to any man or woman where my blog is concerned and I was a bit busy today trying to get my financial affairs in order.

I set aside an entire day to call the folks I owe money to and explain that the old solution was no longer viable and that I was having to re-do the whole thing. I found myself giving the “Reader’s Digest” version of my last year over and over. The amazing thing was that not only did it get easier each time but I found I was still able to laugh at my “overabundance” of bad luck last year.

I think the thing that made it that little bit easier to chuckle at my current dilemma was the kindness shown by each and every one of the people I talked to on the phone today. One young man took severe umbrage at the fact that my pension was going to be so tiny.

He was so upset that he began to search the internet for help for me and find numbers of people to call. I assured him that I was doing all that already, but he still felt the need to help. Now here’s the amazing bit; this young man works for a collection agency that took over my debt problem from couple of major credit card companies. The company responsible for making sure I pay the money I owe.

I was flabbergasted and touched. This fellows show of empathy and humanity really helped me; more than I can say or even try to explain. I thanked him for his concern and his help and offers of further help. I hung up the phone at the end of our business in a much better mood. I actually felt chipper (an old-fashioned word I know, but damn-it it fits) and gave thanks once more to a young man named Stuart who cared.

But that’s not all. Everyone I spoke to today reacted the same way. Each and every company I spoke to responded to me and my situation with a wealth of empathy and understanding and well wishes. I was complemented repeatedly on my ability to laugh at my bad luck and I had one or two other folks who also wanted to help by making sure I was speaking to the right people.

I had made these same phone calls in the beginning of December with the news that everything should be sorted out by now via an agreement written by a financial company. Unfortunately, before the middle of December everything changed when I found out that I no longer worked for the Ministry of Justice and was being medically retired. Once I received my paperwork verifying the result of my meeting with my number one governor, I decided I needed to call the debt charity folks and see what I could do.

These charity people were also very helpful and assured me that bankruptcy was not an option just yet. They explained that my circumstances were way too up in the air and that it would take the court at least a year to make a decision. They gave me great guidelines on what to do and a timeline to do it in. The helpful chap also gave me his personal phone number to contact him on.

Needless to say, I’ve had an uplifting of spirits in the last 48 hours and it is thanks to the charity folks and their positive attitudes and the brilliantly helpful and kind customer service representatives I spoke to today.

I sat here waiting for tea and I realised that the kindness shown to me today did not just surprise me, it shocked me. I thought of an old Glen Campbell song called Try a Little Kindness and it began a sort of loop in my head (it’s still playing now) and I then thought of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire and her “relying on the kindness of strangers.”

I then decided I had to post about my day and the unexpected delight of it. The kindness of these total strangers; people who did not know me and really only knew what I had told them. People that get these sort of phone calls all too often in these financially stressful times; probably so many times that they must tire of it. Yet the folks all offered help, well wishes, and most importantly a final message of intent.

The intent to provide further assistance if I need it.

I had a lot of calls to make today and I really dreaded doing it. But the positive and caring response I got from each company’s representative made the chore less difficult and a lot less embarrassing.

I’ll leave on a positive note and a thankful one. Thanks again Stuart and all you other folks who made an old man very proud to be part of the human race once again.

I’m not sure what happened here, it’s very rare that a movie review gets such a small amount of views, I can only guess that it did not post properly, so I’ll try again. 🙂

Mikes Film Talk

This 2004 South Korean horror “war” film was the first horror film I’d seen set during a war. More importantly it was the first horror film set during the  Vietnamese war. This highly unpopular war (protested vehemently in the US on university campuses across the country and more draft dodgers than all the wars ever fought) has not featured a lot in the horror department. Except for the superior 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder.

Of course filmmakers might have been a bit leery about trying to compete with the brilliant Jacob’s Ladder; which to be fair was a great film based around the backdrop of the Vietnamese war and not during it. I know it scared the ever-loving crap out of me when I saw it and I don’t think I was the only person to be totally “creeped out” by the film.

But South Korean writer/director Su-chang…

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R-Point (2004): Ghosts & Ghoulies Vietnamese style

This 2004 South Korean horror “war” film was the first horror film I’d seen set during a war. More importantly it was the first horror film set during the  Vietnamese war. This highly unpopular war (protested vehemently in the US on university campuses across the country and more draft dodgers than all the wars ever fought) has not featured a lot in the horror department. Except for the superior 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder.

Of course filmmakers might have been a bit leery about trying to compete with the brilliant Jacob’s Ladder; which to be fair was a great film based around the backdrop of the Vietnamese war and not during it. I know it scared the ever-loving crap out of me when I saw it and I don’t think I was the only person to be totally “creeped out” by the film.

But South Korean writer/director Su-chang Kong rose to the challenge and came up with a film that had all the creep factor of Jacob’s Ladder combined with the chills and uneasiness of the unknown and dead people who don’t look or act dead at all.

Set in 1972, R-Point is about a radio message from a patrol that went missing six months ago on a Vietnamese island and the men are all assumed to be dead. The commander of the base decides to send out another patrol to find the missing men.  Lieutenant Choi Tae-in (Woo-seong Kam) is a highly decorated war hero who is also in a lot of trouble for going to an off-limits part of town to visit a prostitute and while he’s there, the soldier who accompanied him is murdered by a VC insurgent. Choi kills the woman responsible, but the soldier is still dead.

After being told that this mission is his chance to redeem himself, he and eight other soldiers are to find the missing soldiers and bring their dog-tags home. The men who have “volunteered” are from the local base’s “Clap clinic” and men who are near their rotation date. They have all been told that if they are successful that they’ll take the jet back home to a heroes welcome.

Posing on the beach.

When the squad reach the island they take a picture of themselves on the beach and begin heading towards the location of the radio signals. While going through a forest, they get ambushed by an old man and a woman. When the ambushers are taken care of, the old man dead and the woman dying, the men come up to a Chinese message on a stone.

One of the men, who can read Chinese, reads the message that says years ago, Chinese troops killed Vietnamese villagers and put their body in a lake; later the Vietnamese filled the lake in and built a shrine over the mass grave. It is now a sacred place. As the men leave one of the men urinates on the stone revealing the rest of the message; it says that anyone who has blood on their hands will never leave the place.

The men find what they think is the  “temple” and use that as their base of operations. While they are there, they meet a squad of American soldiers who aren’t what they seem and they find out about a French garrison that was wiped out years ago. As the men begin searching the island, the radio operator starts getting messages from a French radio operator who tells him that he and his brother will come over to visit. When he tells the Lieutenant, the first thing the lieutenant asks is how the operator knows what the Frenchman is saying as he does not speak French.

So when did you learn to speak French?

This film is atmospheric, scary, uneasy, and will have you jumping at any loud noise. It is a “look behind you” movie. It will seriously “creep” you out and the many plot twists will have you second-guessing throughout the entire film. The film actually starts entering the land of “creepy happenings” from the moment the squad reaches the island. When the film ended, Meg and I went back to the beginning and found a lot of things that we had missed the first time, this not only showed the film makers cleverness but it  seriously added to the effect  of the film

All the actors are top-notch and really sell their characters and you can connect with them quickly. The film looks great considering it was shot on a shoe-string budget. All the scenes were filmed in Cambodia around Bokor Hill Station which is an actual French ghost town.

I have watched this film repeatedly and it never fails to give me goose bumps. I will leave you with one bit of advice: if you watch this film, do not watch it in the dark or watch it alone. It’s that scary. From the first scene where the radio picks up the static ridden signal of the “missing men” to the last frame, it is war horror gold.

The “missing” patrol.

Ernest Borgnine: Keeping his Nuts Warm

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The full title of this autobiography by Ernest Borgnine is: Ernest Borgnine: I Don’t Want To Set the World on Fire, I Just Want to Keep My Nuts Warm. The title came from a sign that Mr Borgnine had seen in his younger days that was advertising hot chestnuts, the sign stuck with him and became the title of his autobiography.

This 2009 book helped his fans learn so much about him. It was a brilliant look at a man who seemingly did not have a bad word to say about anyone. I stumbled across this hardcover copy of his book last year. Sadly, I had barely finished reading it when the news of his death was broadcast; a truly sad day for fans over the world and a loss to his friends and family.

Like most folks my age, I grew up watching episodes of McHale’s Navy (which also had the brilliant Tim Conway among the cast) and chuckled along with everyone else at his and his men’s antics. I saw his award-winning performance as the lovelorn and lonely butcher Marty and watched him die a slow motion death in The Wild Bunch.

Borgnine was one of the few actors who worked constantly. He bounced from television to film and back again. He played every type roll imaginable and towards the end of his career he even voiced a popular character on the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon enabling him to reach an entire new generation of fans.

If you are looking for a “kiss and tell” type of book that dredges up all the old skeleton’s from the closet, don’t bother picking this book up. If you want to read a book that leaves you with a warm glow and an overall feeling of Bonhomme then this is the book for you.

Borgnine recounts his early years from when he joined the Navy right out of high school, his time as a “mature” student of 28 and his start in the theatre world doing repertory theatre. All of his memories of working in the entertainment business have an aura of excitement and joy in doing something he was good at and loved doing.

He writes about his experience in Marty and From Here to Eternity; He also tells about his experiences with some of the most powerful actors in the business.

He also talks about his marriages and he recounts his horrible lapse in judgement that caused him to marry Ethel Merman only to have the marriage dissolved 32 days later.

Mr Borgnine was among the few actors formally recognised as being the oldest in their profession who had not retired. He was proud of that and he was just as excited doing the voice of Mermaid Man and working with his old pal Tim Conway (who voiced Mermaid Man’s sidekick Barnacle Boy) and being heard by a new young generation of fans.

Ernest Borgnine was an actor who filled his roles. He did the same with his life. Nothing was too hard or too difficult to attempt and he was game for everything. There are not too many left like Mr Borgnine. Luckily for us he told us a lot about himself before he exited from the wings of life.

A great sentimental and feel good book about a great actor in his words; what could be wrong with that.

And just for fun: did you know that Ernest Borgnine was the only actor to be in all the Dirty Dozen films?

If you haven’t read this, do so immediately; it’s worth the time and effort and it is not too long at 245 pages with a bunch of great pictures to divert yourself with.

5 stars.