Dream Home (2010): Chinese Urban Horror

This cross genre Chinese film about a girl seeking her “dream Home” is a must see. Here are my thoughts about the film. Enjoy.

Sandy Hook Shootings: the Un-Reality of Violence

Edna Buchanan, crime reporter retired, journalist, author, Pulitzer Prise winner.

In one of the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Edna Buchanan‘s books she (The Corpse had a Familiar Face, Vice, et al) wrote about a shootout at one of Miami‘s larger shopping malls in the 80’s. “The only people who screamed and ducked for cover were the cops. Everyone else thought that an episode of Miami Vice was being filmed.”

Therein lays the problem with violence in real life versus violence in “reel” life. Despite the bleeding hearts of the world who still scream to the rafters that television and films are too violent and that Mr and Mrs Joe Citizen and their offspring are becoming anesthetized to the effects of violence, I argue that the reverse is true.

Very few directors in this day and age have the cojones to show just how sickening, and let’s face shocking, real violence is. Real violence is painful, bloody, sudden, and sometimes, final. In real life no one is blasted off their feet by being shot or hurled backward (or forward) by the force of the  bullet striking their body. Buckets of blood do not flow when they are stabbed unless the person doing the stabbing has twisted the blade when withdrawing it.

Real violence takes modern men, women and children aback. It throws them off-balance and they do not know how to react. In this modern-day and age of “civilised” society where everyone is given benefit of the doubt and bad guys/gals are dealt with by the legal system, people have become sheep (aka victims) of a great lie.

That someone else will protect you.

My daughter and I were discussing the Sandy Hook shootings. It is not often that we both, Meg and I, share pretty much the same epiphany but this was one of those moments.

Looking at me over her scrambled eggs and toast she said, “It looks like only one person tried to stop the kid from shooting.” I thought about this and while trying to come up with a suitable response, she finished with, “And there is nothing in the news about the shooter except a name, Adam Lanza. No one seems to know anything about him. Don’t you find that odd?”

I do and I don’t.

The world is full of people who have fallen through the cracks of everyday society. Home schooling, the internet, the “new” version of the nuclear family all make insulation an easy lifestyle to maintain. What is odd is that this 20 year-old nut did not have a traceable history (there wasn’t even a photo of the guy in his yearbook) and he doesn’t appear on any social networks either.

What we do know is Mom was a gun enthusiast and she regularly took her boys to the shooting range to improve their aim. These trips proved to have fatal consequences for not only the adults and children Adam killed, but for her as well as it appears she was his first victim on the 14th of December 2012.

But my post is not about Adam Lanza so much as it is about the adult’s reaction to him. This skinny social inept – he allegedly had Aspergers syndrome – who, despite his guns, was not physically threatening. This was no Rambo-like warrior. This was an almost anorexic looking kid in combat fatigues who was armed.

*I would just like to point out here that the guns used by Lanza and the one found in his car all belonged to Momma Lanza and not Adam. He tried to unsuccessfully buy a gun and was denied the privilege. The point being that folks that want to use guns to kill don’t have to own them, they just have to have them; legally or illegally. So gun control lobbyist’s just chew on this fact for a while.*

What concerns me is that only one person tried to stop Lanza, the vice principal if I remember correctly, but it doesn’t matter who it was. What matters is it appears that only one individual realised that this was real. Real enough to be acted against and not just reacted to.

I have worked for the last ten years as a prison officer in the United Kingdom. I have seen violence first hand over that time. Nothing lethal, thank God, but pretty gruesome. Prison officers react quickly to threat and to violent action. We have to, it’s part of our job. What is not part of our job is recognising that a threat exists and keeping an eye on it. We try to intervene as quickly as possible to prevent more people getting hurt.

Policemen and women do the same thing, but in the civilian environment and with a lot more lethal results and weapons. The worst “weapon” I’ve seen in action was batteries in a sock that could possibly kill someone and definitely gave someone a concussion.

But the point I am trying to make is that your average person has no “awareness” of threat nor do they have the presence of mind to react assertively in the face of that threat. People now rely too much on having someone else act for them. After all, that’s what the police are for, right?

Wrong.

Police, as they themselves will tell you, are an after the fact organisation. The police will gladly tell you that there is no way in hell (my emphasis not theirs) that they are able to protect everyone. But people want to believe that in this civilised modern world that we live in, the police can and do “protect and serve.”

But we need to face the facts that unless the cops are right there when the threat presents itself, they will not be able to respond quickly enough to save anyone.

I am not saying that the answer lay with more firearms being available to more people or even that folks should start strapping gun belts on before they leave the house.

I am saying that people need to be more aware and less “politically sensitive” to others. The question everyone should be asking is this, “How in the world did this skinny 20 year-old madman get into the school to begin with?” I am not pointing a finger of blame at anyone here. The point is that no one apparently felt that something was wrong until the young man began shooting.

No one, apparently, noticed that this guy did not belong. No one was aware.

I raised my daughter to always be aware of her surroundings. Not only that but to be aware of people who did not “feel” right; that person that you pass on the sidewalk or hallway who is giving off “bad” or “not normal” vibes. The place where bushes or trees are too close to the road or path you are on; a place just perfect to get mugged or worse.

I am not saying be paranoid, but be aware. I’ve lived for over 54 years and a good portion of those I was aware of what was going on around me. I have been in strange cities all over the world and walked alone through a lot of dodgy places and not once have I had something bad happen as a result.

I have been lucky, I know that, but I have also been aware. I would also, I like to think, have tried to stop the young man.

I was trained, along with other prison officers, how to disarm someone with a knife or a gun (although the instructors always went to great pains to explain that no one is faster than a bullet) so that other people, and of course yourself, would not be hurt. I’ve never had to do either and probably never will.

But with modern societies focus on law and order and the breeding of a generation of sheep leads me to believe that the reason that more of these mass shootings (mass murders) are happening more often is because of the lack of response by those being threatened or killed. I am not talking about children here I am talking about responsible adults.

Have we lost the ability to recognise real violence and death? Like the citizenry that Edna Buchanan talks about at the Miami mall shootings, do we view all violence as a film scenario? When we hear a gunshot (providing we even realise a gun has been fired) do we automatically look for the cameras and the film crew?

Have we become so “cowed” by the sight of blood and death that we cannot react to stop the violence? I don’t mean to imply that everyone needs to have a “have-a-go-hero” attitude and be a John McClane. Sandy Hook elementary had heroes, one of which quickly hid her charges in a closet and lied to the gunman about where they were.

It would be nice to think that everyone could or would be so quick-witted. But most people when interviewed after the fact all say that the violence and death did not feel real. Sadly due to the cinematic style of violence in the movies real violence, that is still painful and bloody, is not cinematic. It is harder to recognise because it is, compared to its celluloid cousin, quite low-key and not put through a Dolby sound system.

But we must not let ourselves believe the lie that others will protect us and our families. We are just as responsible and more importantly we are probably closer to the violence when it is happening.

I know that gun control will rear its ugly head again and the NRA and the anti-gun crowd will go to battle stations once again. On Twitter some idiot from the UK said, “We outlawed handguns after our school massacre and have had no more mass shootings since.” Besides sounding like a pompous prig, this fine chap also forgot to mention the several victims in Cumbria, Wales (part of the United Kingdom) shot to death in 2010 or injured by a 52 year-old taxi driver who shot innocents with a legal shotgun.

A bit of news for you mate, a shotgun is not a handgun, all right?

The lesson that could be learned is that we need to be not only more aware, but to be more active in trying to stop the violence. I know that before I trained and worked as a prison officer, I always had the attitude that if someone was trying to hurt or kill me or someone around me, I would try to stop them. Failing that? I’d at least have slowed ’em down a bit and given someone else a chance to get away.

I pray that I never have a chance to find out if I really would or could react quickly enough to try. Of course I also pray that people start realizing that they themselves are the first person responsible for stopping the violence and for protecting themselves.

And like the NRA like to say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” True enough, but guns (besides being a damned good deterrent) are made to kill. But if someone wants to kill badly enough, they don’t need a gun. Hell a golf club can be used to kill someone and you’ll need to “get up close and personal” to do it.

Let’s leave the gun issue out of it, shall we? Let’s concentrate on being more aware.

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Dear Lord, Now I Take Me Off to School…

Sandy Hook  trauma. Photo courtesy of International Business Times.

Whilst reading my blog comments and perusing my Facebook page, Twitter, et al, I noticed a few more references to yesterday’s horrific events at Sandy Hook elementary school.

It seems to be the sort of thing that has become popular with the crazies who own a multitude of guns. This particular nut had two 9mm hand guns and what looks like a “sniper” rifle.

Someone on Twitter posted a Twitpic of the sniper rifle and asked the question, “What does your average citizen need this type of gun for?” The “old” me would have said, for deer hunting of course or other such big game. The new me says, “Yes, why would you need that type of gun?”

More accurately, why do you need two 9mm handguns and a .223 sniper rifle? Yes, the constitution states that all Americans have the right to bear arms. But do we need an arsenal of guns to protect our hearth and home? Is the right to bear arms for our personal defence inclusive of an armoury of weapons for both long-range and short-range protection?

It seems to me, in this day and age of computerization, that we have the ability to track and trace applications for weapons beyond the residence test. You will excuse me if I am not up on the more recent requirements necessary to purchase firearms in America. The last gun I bought was in 1981. But back then you only had to have a valid driver’s license to prove your age and that you had been a resident of that particular state for over six months.

Since that long time ago, we’ve become more computerized. There are a plethora of data bases out there with our names on them. It should be possible for someone to notice when an individual starts buying more than a couple of weapons.

I am not sure if that will help to “keep a lid” on the amount of nut cases out there who collect guns for their own personal Armageddon or apocalyptic shoot out, but it couldn’t hurt. At least then, we would have the chance to ask, before allowing a further purchase of weaponry, as to why they need it.

Answers in triplicate and no misspellings, please.

We’ve had at least two horrific events in a public place in America in this year alone. A movie theatre and an elementary school, please forgive me if I’ve missed anyone who lost a loved one in another mass shooting. I’m not overly familiar with all the news, just the ones that strike a chord in me.

There has been a rise in the number of school shooting in the last decade. Who can forget the massacre of the Amish children in a small school-house in 2006? There are more – a disturbing amount more – cases of young children paying the price of one (or more) man’s madness. Sadly so many more that I can’t remember them all.

There must be some way, besides adopting the British form of gun control, which can help to prevent this type of thing happening in the future. I suppose you could say that if one or more of the teachers could have been armed and possibly could have blasted the gunman out of his shoes, but do we really want our children to receive their education at the OK Corral? But that is a lot of could‘s with no shoulds to balance them out. So what should be done?

I still believe that if the government decide to pass any sort of “extreme” gun control that American‘s have the right to bear arms. That should never change. But I also believe that the right to bear arms does not mean the right to own a huge amount of weapons. Unless you are a “survivalist” the average family doesn’t need a huge stockpile of weapons and ammunition.

But that is not what this blog post is about. The issue of gun control will rage on until enough innocents pay the price for the lackadaisical attitude about weapons from the government.

This post is about a group of children and unarmed adults who were massacred in a school on Friday. When I say down to write this post I had a prayer jump in my conscious thought. It was the first prayer I was taught as a child, it is possibly the first prayer a lot of children learn.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”

If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

“Amen.”

I think that perhaps the prayer could be changed. A little something to help kid prepare for life today in the educational playground of death that could await them when they depart the bus at school.

“Now I take me off to School.”

“Lord please protect me from some gun-toting fool.”

“If I am shot before I leave, please help my folks learn how to grieve.”

“Amen.”

This is not meant to be funny or poke fun at what children have to face at school each day. This is not intended in any way to make light of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday – 14/12/2012, just eleven days before Christmas.

What this is intended to do, is to show just how dangerous it is out there for our little ones. We cannot protect them when they aren’t at home, neither can the police or other public services. I think that it’s time for everyone to rethink what is going on in the world and change their way of seeing things.

We need to take control before the madmen do. Let’s keep the lunatics under the control of the asylum and not let them  run it.

Amen.

Midnight Shooter the Jokes on Him

*Note: I will not put any images of James Holmes up in this post as I refuse to aid his obvious wish for fame.*

As if we really needed another reason to not interact with our fellow inhabitants on this planet we call home we now have the aptly named Midnight Shooter.

The ‘Midnight Shooter’ aka James Holmes, who was in the process of ‘dropping out’ of his neuroscience course at the University of Colorado, is a 24 year old man who amassed over 6,000 rounds of ammunition, four different guns, incendiary devices, tear gas cannisters and materials to make grenades and napalm. All this on top of his body armour kit which included crotch and neck protection and a gas mask. Most of this, police say, was purchased over the internet and delivered to Holmes’ residence.

Holmes spent two months planning his midnight slaughter at the premier of the eagerly awaited Christopher Nolan film Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. It appears that Holmes bought a ticket to the midnight viewing and after going in, wedged open an exit door and went to his car to arm himself and armour up. He then re-entered the theatre and tossing two tear gas cannisters on the floor, opened fire with a semi-automatic assault rifle.

The body count was amazingly and thankfully low. Fourteen unfortunate film fans died in the onslaught and estimates of the injured has been rumoured to be as high as fifty. Details of the arrest of Holmes is vague, but it appears that his rifle jammed and he used his pistol until he ran out of ammunition. Presumably he surrendered when he ran out of ammo.

Obviously that was his intent all along. Why kit yourself up with state-of-the-art body armour if you intend to go out in a blazing gun battle with the police. If you’ve gone to all that trouble, you don’t want the police to kill you before you have your fifteen minutes of fame.

What’s disgusting is that this animal is now telling all and sundry that he’s in a movie. Incredibly every bugger he’s told this to is now repeating it as gospel.

It’s almost like the punch line to a bad joke, you know the one I’m sure. “I might be crazy but I’m not stupid!” So we are meant to believe that this murderous, fame seeking beast really believes that he’s in a film and that none of this is real? Yeah all right mate, pull the other one it’s got bells on.

I suppose we could give him a little credit. At least he didn’t claim it was because he’d played Grand Theft Auto for 48 hours straight. Or that God had told him to do it.

No, he’s claiming to be ‘The Joker‘ from the Batman verse. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. James Holmes is another of these ‘special’ kids who had to grow up only to realize that he’s not special at all.

If you want to look for blame or for a reason, look at our society today. Our ‘child worship’ as George Carlin put it, is causing our youth to grow up into ever more disenchanted adults. I did a article about the fact that a load of school kids said they wanted fame as a job when they grew up. Our culture has allowed this to happen. The only thing people seem to be teaching their children is the attitude of being owed something.

I’m sure that if Holmes’ past is looked into, we’ll find he was a spoiled, unrealistic child who believed he was so special that he didn’t need to exert himself to succeed in anything. Just like his neuroscience class that was ‘too hard’ he found that life was too hard to face normally. So this cretin purchases huge amounts of killing materials and makes his plans.

Unfortunately for Holmes when it is proved that he meticulously planned his slaughter, he’ll be done for murder one. And America has the death penalty sunshine, I hope you continue to feel special right up to your last breath.