Lucy - film review (☆☆☆☆)

          Lucy, Luc Besson, 2014 is not only recommended viewing for fans of the writer-director's other films, but for aficionados of the filmic arts who enjoy the occasional unique as well.

          Monsieur Besson took La Femme Nikita's initially reluctant female singularity Übermench, added a sufficient amount of humor from his The Fifth Element, included an obligatory crazy-foil and legions of speedbumps dressed in black (Léon, The Professional) and then went one step further: he added a message.  The result is a successful think/action movie.  I do not know of another example of this type of film, which makes it worth seeing if only because it's one-of-a-kind.

          Abstract, philosophical (para-philosopical to be more accurate) films like Koyaanisqatsi or even The Tree of Life are solid documentaries or dramas (or a combination of both) and all are locked to their Serious Messages.

          Template-driven action films are, by design, the opposite of unique.

Lucy.  Well...Lucy is both of the above.

eye space

Mother - Fabrice Le Nezet

wampeter and cecil

Dealer Review - Smart Center of Portland

Avoid salesman Mark Tower—everyone else is fantastic.

The best measure of a business is how they handle mistakes and problems.

Recap:  I ordered and placed a $1,000 down payment on a 2014 Smart Cabriolet on the 4th day of February 2014.  My salesman, Mark Tower, told me it would be delivered between late-April and mid-May, which was fine by me...who needs a convertible in Portland until May?

New bit:  In April, Mark told me "Wampy" (nickname explained here) would be arriving in the port of LA on 16 May.  I thanked him for his update and explained that I did not want, during dealer prep, to have a license plate holder screwed into the front plastic of my car because I intended to install a special mounting bracket.  He assured me his service department would, "never install a front plate bracket without a customer request".

Memorial day came and went.  No car.  I'm impatient; so I asked for an update and Mark responded with (and I should note, he—like almost everyone under the age of 50—only communicates by phone text) "it's a 2015 and they aren't releasing them yet.  I'll let you know when they ship it north.  If you're not satisfied you'll get a full refund".

Angry at being treated this way (and did my 2014 become a 2015?) I complained to the General Manager who immediately rectified the situation by giving me a free Smart Cabriolet loaner until my car arrived. 

Please note:  I used the past tense form of 'arrive' in that last sentence because I only needed to drive their free loaner for six weeks; I picked up Wampeter on 10 July.  I paid dealer invoice—$20,500—not the MSRP of $21,950.  And, as you have already sussed, a front plate bracket had been installed, which they are going to fix (in a week or so) by swapping the front body panel from another new car in inventory.

Mercedes Benz of Portland/Smart Center of Portland, has many professional, wonderful, fantastic people.  I worked with, and recommend working with, Andrew Plummer (GM), Dale Acelar, Crystal Barber, Ben Tait, and Mylee Burns.  I recommend you avoid Mark Tower.

same old me no longer able to abide the same old me who once abode

          It's not you, it's me (George didn't coin the phrase, but I give him credit anyway). 

          For the last ten months I've struggled finding a comfortable workplace.  A place where I fit.  Six different locations.  Three different employers.  It's not them.  It's me.

          I stopped delivering newspapers last September because 700 days without a day off = insane.

          So I went to work as a driver for a temp agency (BBSI).  They scheduled me, over the next four months, to drive for three different companies:  Brasher's Auto Auction, Manheim Auto Auction, and Enterprise Car Rental Agency.

          After a few weeks, I had the scheduler stop sending me to Brasher's because it was poorly managed, extremely unsafe, and people yelled.  All the time.  At everyone.  For any reason.  Bunch of old grouches who hated their jobs, co-workers, and employees.  When I feel particularly self-deprecating, I think I should have felt right at home.

          Manheim was the exact opposite of Brasher's; clean, safe, organized, and professional.  But every effort to get scheduled more than one day a week met with failure.  From my vantage point it looked like I was too young to be selected as a full-time driver at Manheim.  I might fit in there in ten years (or as soon as all my hair turns grey).

          I drove the most for Enterprise.  Part-time.  The hours changed every week.  And I quickly became intolerant of the vast majority of my co-workers with whom I was trapped in an 11-passenger van for almost every shift.  Impolite smokers.  Strong perfume wearers.  Incessant talkers.  Constant smartphone sharers.  Adult children with broken internal thermostats (cranking the van's heater).  And every one of them proudly a master of the obvious; "It's snowing!"  "Traffic is terrible!"  "It sure is getting late!"

          Once I obtained a full time job cleaning cars for Alamo and National Car Rental Agencies, I quit driving for BBSI.  With all the vacuums and car washes and traffic noises, I thought I might be able to work an entire shift and, maybe, I would never smell or talk or listen to a co-worker ever again.  But after a few months I discoverd the company itself—EAN Holdings—was so corrupt and managers so terrible that I couldn't tolerate working for them and resigned (detailed here).

          Two weeks later I began working at Avis Budget Group.  Same job.  Same pay.  But (just like Brasher's and Manheim) ABG is a much cleaner, safer, and professional company to work for than EAN.  I was much happier.  My schedule was consistent.  My managers polite, understanding, and even complimentary at times.

          So why is it me?

          Why am I, once again, dissatisfied with my work environment?

          Within my first couple weeks at ABG three different co-workers drove into the back of the car I was driving through a car wash.  It must be me.  I must be driving too slow.  Once is a coincidence.  Twice is bad luck.  Three times in ten days?  Clearly, that's my fault.

          My third week I was sitting in the break room with a male and a female co-worker (neither of whom I knew other than to exchange greetings).  They were talking—each from a different country and speaking their own accented English—so, at first, I was unable to understand any of their conversation.  Their accents were so heavy I didn't think they were speaking English.  But (just like the way Antonio learns English in the 13th Warrior) I soon began to understand some of their words and then almost all of them.
          He was, and had been for several minutes, sexually harassing her.  Brazenly.  Openly.  Willfully.  He degraded her and her family and laughed about it when she protested.  He talked about her and interrogated her using the vilest words.
          I wish I could say I immediately jumped to her rescue and forced him to stop his ugly tirade against her and all women.  I didn't.  I was shocked and I thought, 'The words coming out of his mouth can't actually be what I think I'm hearing; I must be missing the context of their conversation; they must be best-friends and this is just banter...dark, ugly, jokes; I just don't get the funny because I missed the beginning of the conversation...which must be a running joke because she keeps saying "How many days have I told you to stop saying these things to me?"
          I questioned her later.  Learned he had been sexually harassing her for months.  Learned she refused to report him.  So I reported him.  I wish I could say he was fired.  He wasn't.  She was eight months pregnant and so she left on early maternity leave.

          Last week, I attempted to provide guidance to another co-worker regarding a policy, which we'd all been instructed to comply with a few days earlier.  In hindsight, I was not very politic (in fact, I was as blunt as silence can be).  He was preparing to work on a vehicle "out of order" and I took it and put it back.  He protested.  So, I pointed at the car which the manager wanted next and said, "that's next".
          He verbally exploded.  His posture was aggressive and, at one point, I was certain he was going to punch me.  He slammed car doors and kicked trash cans instead.  The gist of his yelling was, "you are not my boss, you can't tell me what to do."
          So I reported him to HR.  Verbal abuse, creating an uncomfortable work environment, refusing to comply with company directives, blah blah.

          It's me.  I can't work with people anymore.  And it's not because people at work are any different than they ever were because "people" have always been this way.  "People" fall into two categories: slammers and closers (detailed here) and the vast majority have been, and will always be, slammers.
          The reason I now-know it's me is: I now realize I was once a reasonably-tolerant closer who kept his mouth shut, professed a live-and-let-live mentality, and grinned and bore it.
          Now, I can't.  Now, I say something.  Now, I speak up.  Now, I make corrections where I think corrections are warranted . . . even though I should shut up and keep my feckin' opinion t' me-self.


Symmetrifractal - Mike Swale

Late Spring Cleaning of Brain Detritus

          Costumes.  People who dig themselves a nice comfortable rut and then walk that rut for the remainder of their days.  Committing crimes, and by crimes I mean things the perpetrator—rather than society—believes to be wrong.  Which leads to a tipping point and voila, "I'm a criminal; this is my costume".

          I knew a guy who claimed he had PTSD (which he called 'battle fatigue') which he said he "got" when serving as an apprentice seaman aboard a ship in the Gulf of Tonkin.  Once, he detailed the traumatic hours his vessel took and returned fire, his fall down a gangway ladder and his feelings of extreme stress caused by an inability to see what was going on since he was below decks the entire time performing duties, listening to the barrage.

          From earlier conversations, I knew he had been drafted into the Navy in 1967, at nineteen, and I was also aware—but chose to never mention—that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident (whether real or fabricated, it matters not) was in 1964.

          I'll refer to this storyteller by name from here-on because Billy doesn't "go on the web or do any of that smarty phone stuff" and even if his girlfriend reads this to him he could brook no argument with me, because it's all the truth.  Or at least these are facts as he believed he understood them and as he related them to others.  Which is the same.  Except it isn't, is it?

          Bill—now a 66-year old hippy—may have real memories of, and honestly think he was present at, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.  It doesn't matter that he wasn't; his brain thinks he was.  The same brain that doesn't think he's a hippy anymore.  He admits he was, "kind-of a wild child and maybe 'the hippy label' could have applied in the 70's."  But that was, "in his youth" and, "not who he was anymore".

          The reason I say Billy is, was, and-forever-will-be a hippy is because he wears the costume.  His black shoulder-blade length hair is never out of a braided pony tail.  A bandanna of some kind is worn as well at times.  He dies his thick beard black to match his hair, and every day—without exception (summer or winter)—these are the clothes he wears:  black leather biker's boots, black Carhartt pants, and a black leather vest with small lapel pins which signify his Vietnam service, support of POW/MIA, etc.  He not-only looks like Tommy Chong but his vocal pace and tone sounds almost the same as the character from the movies (a peppering of far-out's, his dude's are long and filled with too many U's just like his way too-many man's are heavy on the A's).

          The only stories Billy seems to enjoy recounting are those that involve drugs.  After a few weeks, one gets weary of yet another version of:  when he almost got busted; when he had taken too much; or when he did something stupid because he didn't want to get busted or had taken too much.

          On more than a couple of occasions, I witnessed strangers approach Billy in restaurants or on the street and ask if they could buy drugs.  He always politely informed them he "wasn't carrying" (had nothing to sell).  Because of the numerous prescription drugs he had to take, now, Billy only smoked an occasional joint.  None-the-less his costume still acted like a placard (Get Your Illegal Substances Here!).  He refused to take the sign off even though he was no longer in-business because, although it looked like a costume to others; to him, it was a uniform.  He had worn it his entire adult life, it was the foundation for all his memories, and he hadn't chosen retirement...his doctor explained the facts to him and he chose life.

          Billy had been arrested a few times: loitering, vagrancy, possession, public intoxication, failure to appear, etc; and—each time—he had spent a few days, weeks, or months in jail.

          I asked what he thought about living the type of life that always carried with it a potential for incarceration.

          He replied, "It was no different than gettin' drafted.  I was sent to war; no choice.  I did what my country asked; I served.  When the cops rousted me, or I got busted for somethin', it wasn't no different.  The Navy and the Man: even though they both made me go and do, places and things I didn't plan-on or wanna-do, they both still gave me three-hots-and-a-cot, free medical and dental care, and there was always someone to talk to until my time was up."

          I asked why Billy had never been dissuaded by the illegality.

          He said, "The law is wrong, man.  There's nothin' wrong with takin' drugs.  What anyone on this planet wants to put in their bodies is their business.  Drugs are illegal because the government needs to keep the military-corporate-industrial-police state funded.  It's OK if you take prescriptions from your doctor; it's not OK if you grow your own.  No taxes.  Less jobs for the masses.  The day they make every drug legal is the day that tens of millions of police, lawyers, jail guards, border guards, pharmacists, doctors, and prescription drug manufacturers go on unemployment."     

          Billy may be retarded (that was the medical term his VA psychiatrist used: minor retardation) but it was self-induced.  Decades of illegal drugs had killed more brain cells than he could spare.  But he was still savvy enough to put some cogent thoughts together once in a while.  And that was entertaining to witness.

          Since it is not in my nature to drive a point home at the expense of common decency, I didn't ask Billy to enlighten me as to how he thought his body's organs had gotten into their current state of imminent failure.  It may have been one way to refute his "nothin-wrong-with-drugs" claim.  But, I suspect, he would have blamed his terrible health on agent orange or paraquat or MK-ULTRA and never on the misdeeds he inflicted on his own body, which was all "his business" until it was time to die.  Then he went to the VA.  The government now keeps him alive with taxpayer dollars.

other articles with death-panel candidates:

A free "stand in" loaner from the dealership

I have mixed emotions.  Sorry and perturbed (to have been dealt this hand); combined with a bit of consternation (at feeling forced to—once again—gripe and complain like an ornery ass-hat) and pleased as a swine wallowing in his own ordure (at my current vehicular status).  I eliminated names to protect the guilty and the innocent.

Smart Center Portland General Manager,

          I ordered a 2014 smart cabriolet in February.  At the time, I was informed it would be built in April and delivered in late May.  As the months passed, I was informed of the status of my vehicle, its VIN number, when it would arrive in the port of LA, and when it was expected to get to Portland.

          On 23 May I received a quick note relating that since it was a 2015 model year that it was uncertain when it would be released and that I would be kept updated.

          I wrote back expressing my huge concern; I was expecting my 2014's soon arrival and was now worried it might not be the model I wanted.

          This was your salesman's reply:

"The only difference between the 2014 and 2015 Smart is a digit in the VIN.  If its not the car I promised then you will have your deposit refunded no questions asked.  I will let you know when Smart trucks the car North to us."

          No acknowledgement that I ordered the current model year—not next year's—and no explanation. 

          Is this how all customer's are treated?  If I had ordered an expensive Mercedes and the next model year arrived instead, would I have been provided full explanations or would I also just be encouraged to request a refund?

          I want to understand this mix-up.  Is it only mine or an entire shipment?  Does this happen routinely when new model years come out or is it the first?  Was the mistake made when the order was submitted or on the factory's end?  What is your best educated guess on arrival?

          I don't intend to wait until September.  I ordered a convertible in February so that I could enjoy the top down this summer. 

          I do not want to have any more dealings with that salesman; he should focus his derisive 140 character messages on young tweeters and not on people who've already bought a car or three in the past.


Veach Glines

Mr. Glines,

          I apologize for my salesman's seemingly emotionless, flippant, curt and non-helpful email message.

          I have reviewed the order and determined that indeed your order was originally processed as a model year 2014 but was switched by the factory due to the changeover from one model year to the next.  I am working with the smart brand people, now, to see when we might be able to get the vehicle from the port.  I will let you know as soon as I hear from them.

          Until I can get a definitive answer, I would like to offer you a Smart convertible to drive.  Although it will not be the car you ordered, I am hoping that it would be a satisfactory short term solution.

          Per your request, I removed the salesman from your file and added a new salesman.  I have cc’d him on this message and will make sure he connects with you right away to update you and make arrangements for alternate transportation. 

Thank you,

General Manager

Yesterday I met with the General Manager who gave me a 2013 smart cabriolet to use until my 2014 2015 arrives or they locate one in stock somewhere.  Thank you smart center of Portland.