Archive | dreams RSS feed for this section

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

6 Oct

On Wednesday October 5, 2011, the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, passed away. A visit to apple.com (I don’t do that too often) displays simply, Steve Jobs 1955-2011. By the time you will read this the media will be filled with stories and headlines about his death, but also about his life. And with good reason, while Steve Jobs was just a man, he was a man who changed the world.

It is no secret that I personally dislike apple products, and have periodically bashed them ever since the iPod came out. However while I may not of liked his products, the man and the company founded under Steve Jobs has played an important role in shaping our world.

One must give credit to Steve Jobs for keeping his vision of technology that can do more than just merely crunch numbers, for a technology that is not just functional, but technology that is fun. Steve Jobs brought products to the marketplace that billions of people use around the world. He was another example of American ingenuity, bringing value added technology to the world, and his name will most definitely be listed with the likes of Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. He has kept competitors on their toes for decades, and will no doubt continue to do so even after he is gone. So while you may not have joined the apple craze, you must pay a little respect to a man who gave us so much. Thanks Steve Jobs.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. –Steve Jobs

Music for Today

2 Sep

Another day begins to the sound of rain on the window. Here are some fitting songs to any morning. Enjoy.

Reasons to Believe

17 Apr

For each tank that is manufactured in the world, 131000 teddy bears are made.

For each stock exchange that plummets, there are 10 versions of ‘What a Wonderful World’.

For each corrupt person, there are 8000 donating blood.

For each wall that exists, there are 200000 welcome mats.

While a scientist is designing a new weapon, 1 million moms are making chocolate cakes….

There is a recent commercial circulating in Latin America right now, and its gathering a lot of attention. What you just read is a section of the ad appropriately named ‘Reasons to Believe’ that is put out by Coca Cola. I am not sure why this ad has not been released in an english version elsewhere, but I think it definitely should be soon. Until then, there are a couple translated versions floating around on YouTube, and I am here to share one of them with you. Put aside all your liberal-anti-big-business-damn-the-man thoughts and just enjoy a simple ad with a great message to start your Sunday 🙂

2010 Films in Review

30 Jan

2010 may not have hosted the best movies of any year on record (1977-Star Wars obviously…), but it most certainly had some worthy works. Despite the usual expected travesties such as Twilight and Sex and the City sequels, there were some remarkable films. One of the first to come to mind would be Inception, the film that played on the realities of a dream. A great action film leaving you with the same sort of feeling you had after watching the Matrix for the first time, waking up in the middle of the night screaming “WHAT IS REAL!?” Well maybe not that far, but another DiCaprio hit none the less.

Other worthy mentions would be the Social Network, with the surprisingly entertaining depiction of Mr Zuckerberg himself, the unexpected humor in Kick Ass, the ever likable Boston gangster film genre of The Town, and the witty remarks of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. Furthermore, the less popular but incredibly well written film Remember Me starring Robert Pattinson showed this British actor is capable of portraying a decent character other than a sparkly vampire. Never Let Me Go, was a difficult and sad yet incredible movie to watch as well, same goes for Winters Bone which Jennifer Lawrence does a fantastic job in.

I maintain 2010 was a good year for movies. It’s hard to explain the value of movies to non-movie buffs, and I can never express enough the importance of watching each film for what it is. Let yourself into the story, experience what the filmmakers are trying to portray, because films are not merely entertainment, they are depictions of all the feelings and emotions we have in this world.

So I’ll leave you with one of the best movie montages of 2010 I’ve seen. Kudos to the creators of this, they did a good job. We’ll see how 2011 turns out.

Corporate Culture: Money Never Sleeps

25 Jan

Recently, the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was recently released on DVD, and with that, I found it fitting to comment on the deeper meanings of the film itself. By no means is this film a spectacular experience, but there is a host of imagery and underlying concepts to look out for as you watch the story unfold. The following is a section of a paper we had to prepare on corporate culture.

Beneath the Surface

Oliver Stone is a highly outspoken director, and he uses no restraint in expressing his views in a myriad of ways. For behind the acting and the story of the characters in the film, lies an entire other story, a story that few actual viewers even discover, and it is only when you pay attention to the cues to this story that it will be revealed. Money Never Sleeps is loaded with imagery and metaphors alike, all of which hold true to Stone’s views on corporate and political issues in America. Some of the techniques are subtle, requiring a close eye or ear to catch them, others are more outspoken, but all serve the same purpose. That purpose is to persuade the audience to see America’s society through a particular lens; Stone is holding that lens in this movie, you are looking through it.

Greed

One of the most visible themes that Stone puts into the open in the film is the concept of Greed. From Stone’s first Wall Street Film came the famous Gordon Gekko phrase; ‘Greed is Good’. And although both the original and the sequel film portray very capitalist ideals, one should not be mistaken into thinking that this portrayal is done so in a positive manner. Alternatively, Stone does a good job in exploring the quick highs, and shiny exploits of a greedy Gordon Gekko, a greedy Bretton James, a greedy America.

Earrings and Cars

Throughout Money Never Sleeps, there is a constant portrayal of the shiny exploits of greedy endeavors. Stone places these images of the wealthy throughout the film, in varying levels of exposure. For example, the constant presence of expensive cars and motorcycles is shown. The motorcycle leads this image of toys of the wealthy, and breaks open with Shia Labeouf’s character Jake riding his motorcycle to work. The trend continues from hedge funder parties displaying an array of cars that cost as much as most people’s homes, to that very well sponsored bike brand of shiny Ducati’s splattered across many of the films scenes. As you look closer you’ll notice an abundance of jewelry. One particular scene which exemplifies this is when Jake attends the dinner party with his new employer Bretton James. You’ll notice the women in these scenes weighed down with massive diamond earrings and elaborate pearl necklaces. Precious stones, motorcycles and fast cars, all of which Stone uses to showcase the abundance of unnecessary wealth the greedy obtain.

The Darkness

One of the most striking moods Stone creates in the movie is one that reflects the nature of the discussions and transactions of the financial heads. The meetings in which Louis Zabel and Bretton James discuss financial decisions of the nation’s biggest banks take place in a room with rich wood furniture, and closed windows. This dark atmosphere accompanied by men in suits gathered around the large table portray a meeting not unlike that of some secret society making decisions about how to control the world. For it is the idea of a dark and ominous meeting place and the even darker decisions being made that Stone wishes to expose to his audience. This very idea of darkness is present even in the movie poster released for the film, in which Gekko stands over Jake; the mentor and the apprentice, with that persistent darkness creeping in from the right.  In Stone’s lens, the head of financial institutions are those dark decision makers, the fate of many decided by the handshakes of a few. Once more, almost on cue, as the dealings of Bretton James’ firm become exposed, and the truth starts to escape, light begins to shine in from windows. The light of truth begins to expose those once dark deals.

Saturn

What decisions are the likes of the greedy ready to make? How far will one go to achieve their goals? Stone would have you believe that the limits of the true capitalist stretch much further than you’d think. In the film, the imagery of how far greed can push people is displayed in horrific measures, so far that they span past the limitations of humanity and decency. Take for example the painting that Bretton James introduces to Jake when they enter Bretton’s office. The painting is the famous image of Saturn devouring his son. The ‘Black Paintings’ were works completed by Francisco Goya, a series of which reflect Goya’s own outlook towards life and humanity in the early 19th century. So paranoid that his children would try to overtake him and steal his power, the roman god Saturn apparently killed and ate each of his children as they were born. That very same theme paints its own bleak image that Stone uses to reflect upon the extremes in which man will go to attain power and wealth. One cannot help but think back to this imagery when Gordon Gekko himself betrays his own daughter’s final strands of trust as he swindles the 100 million dollars out of her bank account, thought to be safe in Switzerland. Through these actions, Stone does not hesitate to claim that desire for money and power hold no restraint when human beings become infected and begin to show its symptoms.

Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness

As one walks away from this film, through all the moods and imagery that the film creates, there is but one that holds significance lasting power. The character who best exhibits this theme is Louis Zabel. When Jake asks Louis if he is ok near the beginning of the film, Louis replies “good day I’m ok, bad day I’m ok, what’s the difference”. This simple phrase embodies the shear unhappiness in Louis’ life; a man who spent his entire life chasing money, looking for success and never being satisfied. The realization of all those wasted years coming too late for Louis, he tries to get through to Jake, and help him appreciate what really is important in life. The distraught life of Louis Zabel peaks in the scene where he wakes up one morning and goes through his normal routine and makes his way into the subway station. The intensity of the music alone offers a glimpse into what is about to happen. So lost was Louis Zabel, so alone in a world in which he hardly knew anymore, distancing himself from what was important in the pursuit of money. This is a devastating event for Jake, as you watch the news of his mentor’s death in the close-up of Jakes eyes. This scene serves as the tipping point for Jake, as he then begins to put the pieces of Louis’ advice together through the rest of the movie. Oliver Stone is effectively using Louis Zabel’s character to portray the simple fact that money cannot buy you happiness.

Validity

The ideas brought forward by the director are by many standards, very controversial. One could argue that this film attempts to expose activities of the political right, and at the same time presents views and even solutions from the political left. Oliver Stone as a director is quite forward in his expression of views towards political, economic, and corporate culture. These expressions often masked behind movies, but also evident in public statements as well. If you follow Oliver Stone’s films, they are consistent in their techniques used. Typically portraying a certain issue, but alluding to the controversial questions surrounding the issue throughout the film. A Vietnam War vet himself, these techniques were used in the film ‘Platoon’ in 1986. The characters and the story are only skin deep to the deeper issues he tries to expose. The focus on story and character development is hardly elaborate in any of his films, as evident by a significant amount of documentary style films he has been a part of. Take for example the films ‘JFK’, ‘Nixon’ ‘W’ and more recent ‘South of the Border’, all heavy on the political side as well. By infusing so much political subjectivity into a film, you risk validity in your work.

Subjective/Objective

By leaving objectivity at the door, you induce certain implications when validity comes into play. Money Never Sleeps provides some very interesting dialogue near the end of the film. The dialogue hardly applies to the story or the characters in the film. This dialogue provided by Shia Labaeuf’s character Jake instead addresses the issues in the film that had thus far been shrouded over by the surface story. In this dialogue, Jake says “What is the definition of insanity; it is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. By that standard, most of us are insane, but not at the same time. On that basis we trust. But can this way of life endure if more and more of us are insane at the same time?” Stone is alluding to his opinion that society is insane; we are making the same mistakes over and over, and by doing so, are eroding a lifestyle we have become accustomed to. Whether directly or indirectly, the act of hinting that American values of capitalism and democracy aren’t working as a system falls into subjective expression.

Subsequently, depending on the audience, the levels of objective and subjective expression vary. An audience which agrees with the ideas put forward will view the work as more objective, while those who disagree would push it into the realm of subjectivity. True objective material allows factual information to be brought into the open, allowing the audience to form their opinions based upon the provided content. So it is the personal background of the individual that dictates the degree of subjectivity in a film.

Effectiveness

Over all, Stone puts forth some credible arguments but lacks fluidity between the characters story and the hidden agenda. That constant bubble metaphor throughout the film will have you flipping scenes to count how many bubbles you can find. Stone uses these bubbles in an attempt to shine a somewhat positive light on the issues at hand near the end of the film. “Bubbles are evolutionary…always creating change” as heard in the final dialogue by Jake implies that there is hope despite all humanities mistakes. That as society we can learn from past errors if we so choose, and inflict the measures necessary to induce change. “Didn’t you say green’s the new bubble Jake?” are the words said to Jake by Gordon Gekko, as he informs the young couple that he put 100 million dollars into the United Fusion company. A great start, but one might scratch their head wondering if after all that has happened, if that’s all that’s required to make it better again. Stone enforces this feeling of optimism with the final scene in which all the characters are in a state of bliss celebrating the birthday of Jake and Winnie’s child. While quick fixes might not be reality, a step in the right direction is a good start.

Value

With mixed reviews, Money Never Sleeps may not be a box office record breaker, but it does hold some significant value. As the current economy struggles to resist a double dip recession, many people are looking to the reasons why. Everyone wants to know why the housing market crashed. Taxpayers were asking why their money was being used to bailout the big banks and their bad investments. Where should we be investing for the future? A series of questions with limited answers, the real value in this film is inspiring dialogue about these issues. Louis Zabel tells Jack that he’s “asking the wrong questions”. Only as we strive to ask the right questions can we hope to achieve change. The scale on the level of change is not as important, small or big, change is nevertheless an important process. Always learning, always changing, this is the necessity for the betterment of society.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

31 May

He once challenged his own reflection to a staring contest. On the fourth day… he won. He is the most interesing man in the world.

In my opinion, Dos Equis has come up with one of the most entertaining and effective marketing campaigns in recent years. They feature the most interesting man in the world, sharing with us true facts about his life. He is the epidomy of the word ‘man’, he is everything we want to be, but cant be. He does everything we want to do, he is what every man wants to be. He’s like Chuck Norris, but better. He does things we cannot do, he says things we cannot say, and his advice is unparalleled. So this is my tribute to the most interesting man in the world. Even if we are unable to be like him, we can at least drink Dos Equis.

Stay thirsty my friends.

Airport 101: How to act like you’ve done it a 1000 times, for your first time.

12 May

It’s a sunny mid May morning; you grab your bag out of the car and walk through the revolving doors into the departure hall. You knew which entrance was closest to your airline’s check-in counter, so you have a short walk straight ahead to the counter. You bypass the ticket sales line, the check in line, the automated check in machines, and walk straight to the baggage drop off counter because you did online check-in the night before, and already have your boarding pass. Placing your passport with boarding pass tucked inside at your photo page on the counter, the staff working the counter will smile, and print your baggage tag off and tag your bag, pointing out the boarding time and gate number. You smile and say thanks, as you place your bag on the conveyor, and head towards the security checkpoint.

Another smile and a quick “nope, but thank you” as you walk past the security staff checking for liquids and other banned carry-on items. You didn’t pack any liquids or gels in your carry on, you just walk on by towards the lineup. You’re not complaining about the long line, you use the extra time to take your laptop out of your carry-on bag; you take your zip-up sweater off, maybe your watch, and keys and change out of your pocket. Laptop into one bin, with your boarding pass on top in plain sight. Keys, watch, change, maybe your belt and sweater in another bin, but you know not to place your bag in a bin. The security staff notices your boarding pass, picks it up to check it, and asks if you have any other metal items on your person, and hands you back your boarding pass. You walk through the metal detector when the staff prompts you to, and go collect your items, you luck out, and they decide not to swab your laptop, so you simply put it back in your back and move on.

You knew your gate is right, not left, so you take a turn and stop to check out the new release books at the bookstore, before continuing on towards your gate. You don’t have to sit front and center at the gate jostling for space, you take a seat between gates where there’s more space, and open your book to read.

You listen to the announcements and watch as everyone lines up to board the plane, you continue reading until the line dies down, closing your book, you walk up to the counter last, your passport photo page is opened, and you hand it over along with your boarding pass. You take both back and are walking down the ramp towards the plane. More smiles from the staff on the plane, you selected or requested your seat in advance and you picked front row, window, placing your bag in the over head bin, you take your seat. Your iPod is already in your pocket, your book in hand, you sit down lean back, and begin reading again, only putting your ear buds in once you’re up into the clouds, and the seatbelt sign is off.

The flight staff offers you a drink; you get a half 7up half orange juice, and thank them. Maybe it’s time for a nap, or a chat with the flight staff, they always have interesting stories to share. Before you know it your on the ground again. You quickly find your baggage carrousel, standing back to allow others to easily get their bags when they come out. You see your bag, pick it up, and you’re walking out of the arrivals hall.

Airports, they can be daunting places for a newcomer or for anybody who doesn’t travel often. No parking zones, sniffer dogs, masses of people, no messing around security staff, and that ever looming boarding time can transform even the most calm people into a distraught panicking mess. Constantly changing security measure, technological advances in check in procedures, and ever changing airport policies make staying on top of the procedures a difficult task for anyone.

But navigating through any airport can be done fairly easily and stress free, if you prepare properly, and know what to expect. You can walk with confidence through the terminal whether it’s your fourth flight this week, or your first flight in your life. Heres how you can make that airport struggle into an enjoyable experience.

1.Airport Arrival – A few quick notes, check airlines for their guidelines on arriving at the airport before flights. For domestic flights, most airlines will let you check in even up to a half hour before boarding time but don’t push your luck. For international flights, 2-3 hours before departure is the norm. And for the record ‘Arrivals’ means people arriving at the airport from a flight, ‘Departures’ is for people entering the airport for a departing flight, you don’t know how many people I meet who get these two mixed up.

2.Checking In – The days of walking up to the counter with paper flight tickets and your ID are long gone. Most airlines have online check in, where you can either print your boarding pass off, or have a 2D boarding barcode sent directly to your mobile phone. If you can’t do either of those, use the automated check-in machines, follow the instructions, they aren’t difficult to use and save a lot of time.

3.Identification – If you are travelling within Canada domestically, you do not need to bring your passport, any government issued ID such as a driver’s license is sufficient. If you’re flying international, then do bring your passport. Have it ready at the check-counters, and again when boarding your flight at the gate.

4.Liquids/Gels/Aerosols – Ever since some terrorists in Britain decided to fill soft drink bottles with concentrated hydrogen peroxide in an attempt to detonate a bomb on a plane in 2006, the liquids/gels/aerosols rule has been in effect. You can bring these items, but they must be in containers of 100ml or less and in a resealable plastic bag. It’s easier just to put these items in your checked luggage. Don’t blame the airport for this inconvenience, blame the terrorists.

5. Metal Detectors – Security is a breeze, as long as you have nothing to hide. Should you take the change and keys out of your pocket? Well those are metal detectors, so it’s a good idea. If you’re in the U.S you’ll need to take your shoes off as well thanks to our friend Richard Reid the shoe bomber. Yes they want you to take your laptop out of your bag, no you don’t have to take your digital camera out.

6. Screening – Five words; randomly selected for additional screening. This will happen from time to time, from my experience and conversations with security staff, you are more likely to be selected for addition screening if you do NOT make the metal detectors go off. Sometimes I leave my belt on just for that reason, a quick look at your belt beats the full body grope for addition screening. But if you are selected, relax, do as they say, they might need to go through your bag etc.

7. Missed Connections – If your flight was delayed, your baggage didn’t come off on time, or for any reason other than your own (and even sometimes if it is) and you missed your connecting flight, don’t worry. Missed connections happen, and finding the next available flight will not cost you anything 99% of the time, whether you are wait listed or have a new confirmed flight, just relax, there’s nothing else you can do now, you’ll get there, eventually. Talk to your airlines customer service at the airport, sometimes meal vouchers and hotel accommodation is provided, depending on the country and airline.

8. Port of Entry – No matter what any airline staff, airport staff, or friends tell you. You must pick up your checked baggage at your first point of entry into any country, whether or not you have a connecting flight internally. This is because you need to have all your luggage on you as you go through customs.

9. New Country – While on the flight to a new country, the flight crew will hand out customs declaration cards, and possibly health and/or immigration information cards. If you are sleeping, you might not get one, so be sure to ask. When you land, if there is a health screening, this is usually first. Some nations have taken extra measure to screen complications such as H1N1 and SARS, so be prepared to possibly present your health declaration card. Next up will be immigration, you will need to remember to stay behind the painted line, and show your passport when called to the counter. After you get through immigration, you pick up your bags and make your way through customs, this is where you hand in your declaration card.

10. Enjoyment – In all reality, compared to so many other ways people around the world move about, flying is really not that bad. Where else can you sit back in a nice clean chair, watch a movie on a your own little TV, and have somebody bring drinks right to your hand. Look out that window, you’re flying through the clouds, mankind dreamed of this moment for thousands of years, you’re living it.