Tuesday, May 26, 2015

American Sniper - the movie

American Sniper, the movie, is incredible.  I expected as much when I saw that Clint Eastwood was the director. His Gran Turino movie is one of my all time favourites.  Bradley Cooper stars as  Chris Kyle in this movie which is based on Chris Kyle's life.  Chris Kyle was the American Navy Seal credited as the deadliest sniper, with 255 kills of which 160 were officially confirmed,  in the Iraq War.  Chris Kyle did 4 tours and returned home to be killed by another Veteran who he was helping.  His wife Taya Renae Kyle is played by the extraordinary Sienna Miller.
The amazing story and direction breaks the movie up into matching frames with Chris Kyle in Iraq and Taya his wife at home.  In one poignant scene he comes under attack while talking on a satellite phone to Tayal.  Sienna Miller's acting in this part of the movie is deeply beautiful.  Chris Kyle did 4 tours. By the fourth he's experiencing symptons associated with PTSD.  It's his last tour.  His bravery and the extraordinary dangers and threats he and his team faced in Iraq are so alien to the world at home.  The movie shows this well.  There's an amazing juxtaposition of Chris Kyle fighting against the Olympic athlete sniper who serves the Iraqui's.  Two pees in a pod who each sees themselves as protecting their fellow soldiers.  Each amazingly disciplined and skilled.  The fanaticism of the enemy is captured well.  Chris Kyle's simple service and explanation for his work is that he's there to protect his comrades.  He's a hero.  A man's man. A soldier's soldier. He's a big brother and his little brother joins the marines.  Chris Kyle is the big brother one wants.  He's a devoted husband but his work makes family life difficult.  The movie captures this so well.  All in all it's a great movie of a great man.
Chris Kyle is to the work of a sniper what Einstein was to the work of physicists.  He's like a Muhammed Ali with a rifle.  An amazing superhuman disciplined force of nature.  A genius like Billy Bishop who shot down the Red Baron. He's an American Hero.
The movie is great.  Clint Eastwood is amazing. The writer Jason Hall is amazing too.
That said I was appalled to read some of the critics of the movie, arm chair critics mind you, some who'd not even seen it, some who criticized Chris Kyle, and they themselves had achieved nothing significant in their lives except maybe got drunk and smoked some pot. It was a sad reflection on Facebook and Social Media to see the negativity and 'haters' and those whose envy of greatness had them spouting all manner of nonsense.
Yes, war is horrible.  Yes America is an empire like the British before them and the Roman's before them and the Russians and the Turks and the Azteks and the Moghuls and all the world's empires. And yes there are soldiers.  And yes soldier fight and compete with other soldiers who would have what the people inside empire's have.  So the Nazi's fought all of Europe to establish the Nazi empire and the Communists of Mao tse Tung fought all the Chinese to get their empire. Now all the military's of the world stand ready to fight each other.
Of course like John Lennon, I  say  "Give Peace a Chance."
Every adolescent boy and protected girl knows what everyone should do. Of course we should stop fighting and ISIS should stop chopping peoples heads off.
Everyone has great ideas and they pass a bottle of wine and a bong and talk big talk.  Tibet and Nepal are wonderful places where the very spiritual meditate but then the Chinese Communists, one of lowest forms of humanoid uncivilized bullies arrogant psychopathic sorts not even toilet trained no better than the raping Russian peasant soldiers who destroyed warsaw, while these Chinese thugs killed the monks.  The Buddhists fight Buddhists, Moslems fight Moslems and Christians Christians and Jews Jews and sometimes they fight each other.
War is a basic.
Soldiers have served to protect the rest of us who don't want to face bullets and bombs up close and real.  Van Gogh was a great painter. Chis Kyle was a great sniper.  The world is full of talkers.  I'm personally still impressed with great orators but not the stuff that was written like spewed garbage by the critics of Chris Kyle.  He's an American Hero and lots  of people today make a 'troll' life for themselves 'chopping off the heads of others in an attempt to make themselves taller.'
I accept the need for law and order and military actions if only because as I've got older I've seen that 'polyannaism' leads to the Chamberlain like silliness that starts wars.  Animals attack when they think they have an advantage.  That's the way of predators.
I'm as much an idealist as the next guy but I'm not smoking marijuana and not on crack so I can ask the simple question who would have saved the lives that Chris Kyle saved better than the best like he was.  Who would you as a soldier want having oversight on your walking through the valley of the shadow of death where women and children are used as combatants.  Personally I'd always want Chris Kyle on my side in a war.  He embodied excellence.
So thank you Chris Kyle for your bravery, discipline, service and sacrifice. Thank you the wife and children of Chris Kyle for your sacrifice.
Thank you Jason Hall and Clint Eastwood this incredible story.  And thank you Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller for such great acting that I feel I got a glympse into the reality of the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make so that we can be safe.  

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Vancouver Weekend in May

 Tom met me at the office on Friday and helped me carry boxes to the storage locker with the truck.  There we just had to check out the Kodiac 4x4 450 quad.   We both rode it around just for the fun of it, ostensibly charging the battery.
I actually found my Pfaff heavy duty sewing machine which I’d bought for offshore sailing. I’ve decided that sailcloth tape and hand stiching will be sufficient. No need to carry a sewing machine offshore. Laura meanwhile told me all about her sewing with a young family. My friend,   Anna who I'd thought might need a sewing machine,  has a sewing machine.  It’s way too heavy to send to my back east  family.  So Laura’s getting it and plans on moving her old computer monitor to make room.  She really only uses her new iPad.  The Pfaff will replace the monitor in the little apartment. Something new for cat George to reflect on.
That night Tom, Laura and I had succulent steaks at the Cactus Club. I used the $100 gift certificate I’d ‘won’ at the Turning Point Gala.  We love Cactus Club.  The steaks were mouth watering. Tom had driven in from Chilliwack to help me move office boxes to storage and return my truck.  He’d been using to unload clutter from his sailboat Naomi.
Laura, I and Gilbert drove him back to Chilliwack.  The river was running fast beside his place. The forest air was so sweet to the nostrils.  Both Laura and I were inhaling the fresh air while Gilbert was rushing about markieng everything in sight with his scent.  A late night drive back to Burnaby.
Then a day of reading.  Really.  I made bacon sandwiches then in the evening I ordered pizza.  With netflix we watched the Bruce Willis and Halle Berry movie, Perfect Stranger. What a fabulous mystery thriller!  Great Canadian Pizza too.  Lovely down day.  I got the guitar out and played and sang songs from the 60’s and 70’s.  The neighbour tonight said how much he’d enjoyed listening.  Laura liked it too saying she knew the words to so many songs. I  enjoyed bashing the guitar and bashing through  the songs.  It’s been too long.
Sunday, church at St. James Anglican. Pentecost. The choir exceptional.
After that we drove home, the three of us in the top down Miata. I swung by the new office on Renfrew.  I loved that the Serenity Store was next to it but one of my patients told me the Italian Sporting Goods store was also nearby. Sure enough, “Home of the Hunter’ was just just 3 doors down.  More ’synchronicity’.  Now if a patient cancels I can go down stairs and check out the latest in hunting and camping gear. There’s also a tattoo parlour beside the coffeeshop.  I don't know if I'll have time for tattoos between patients though. Driving up Hastings, I saw too that the new location for the walkin clinic/methadone clinic I work at is beside an East Vancouver "make your own wine" and up the street from a 'medical marijuana place'.
We then drove  back to do more reading and watching tv. I walked Gilbert a couple of times.  Not much more than that.  Pretty laid back.  I did enjoy looking at flowers. In the wee hours of Sunday morning the rains began.
It was a long long day at work, today, steady. There’s the chaos of the move.  Boxes and files everywhere.  My lawyer friend also dropped by to store some stuff at my office while she was in the neighbourhood.
The move is occurring first week of June.  The pictures and diplomas from the office are all boxed up.  Lots of the books boxed up too.
Angel will be sorting and setting up the office while I’m in Ireland for an autism conference.  I was referred an autistic patient and realized how little I knew about autistic adults. Unlike the traumatic brain injury I am familiar with, it seemed to me that a person with autism had something different from rewiring and possible more akin to a different operating system.  I’m interested in the gentleman and hope to learn more. Of course I wanted to go to Ireland too.  A chance to see where my grandfather met my scottish grandmother.  My mother’s family.  My brother and sister in law have been. I’m picking up where their exploration of the old country left off.
Just watched an NHL Stanley Cup playoff  hockey game.  Anaheim beat Chicago in over time.
Perhaps if the weather is good tomorrow or the next day I can ride the motorcycle into town. When Gilbert saw Laura’s motorcycle he jumped right up on the seat expecting her to take him for a ride.  He’s a character.  I do love his company.  Everyday he comes to work and so enjoys being a part of the office, the official greeter and therapy dog. Some days he stays home and works as a guard dog but he's more of a softy. He really gets into his role as therapy dog.
I barbecued pork chops on Sunday.  Tonight I made sandwiches with left overs. There was just a little ice cream left and some blueberries. I enjoyed these and Gilbert enjoyed licking out the icrecream container, then licking my bowl. And yes, he enjoyed some of the pork chops too.  You don't have to go calling the SPCA to say how I starve and abuse my dog.  He’s sleeping now.
We were down at the sailboat . I had to pump last nights rain water out of the runabout.  When we go down to the sailboat,  Gilbert loves running full out up and down the dock.  He also had me throwing ball for him.  Now he's tired out.  The  Little guy has had long day.
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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hay Bay Family Visit

I love my family.  The problem is I don’t get to see them as much as I’d wish. There’s the issue of distance.  When we get together though it’s like we’ve never been apart.  My sister in law Adell phoned first then I was able to talk with their oldest song Graeme and then my brother Ron and the plan to visit was made. Patient cancellations and air flight bookings and Laura offering to look after Gilbert when I was away. The stop in Toronto after a long flight seemed too much to subject Gilbert to. He’s a great flier but I really think they need some doggie lawn inside airports. Least they can do since they have smoking rooms for smokers.
My nephew Allan met me in Kingston.  We drove out the suburban rural roads to their home. I’m always amazed at how civilized Ontario seems compared to the wild west.  There’s a gentleness to the terrain too.  Rolling hills compared to mountain peaks.  Lakes compared to ocean.  Great seeing my brother’s place.  I noticed the lawn wasn’t cut as it had been last time I’d been there.  I soon learned that Ron had developed pains in his hip so hadn’t completed that task.
I love to be useful. After greetings all round, warm hugs, and lots of laughter I got the tour of the place seeing the garden that Adell helped to plant at the last minute. The albacore sailboats were new. I’m looking forward to one day getting those out on the lake.
Adell and I went into town to get some medications.  I laughed when I walked quickly up to the pharmacist and asked for “Immodium’.  I couldn’t believe the speed at which she dashed around the counter and ran to the shelf showing me where it was located.  “It’s not for me,” I said, laughing.  She was visibly relieved.  I couldn’t help but think she’d had an emergency request in the past which made her move so quickly on this occasion.
I always enjoy talking with my sister in law, a retired school principal, about Canada and culture and the changing world. I also got updated on the activities of her incredible boys, Graeme the oldest, Andrew and his wife Tanya and Allan the youngest.  Graeme had a new girlfriend and I’d never heard about that before.  Allan’s master’s psychology research was doing well. I’d later learn from Andrew himself that he was making robot magnetic explorers at Carlton University.  My nephews are quite amazing people.
Allan and I drove into town so I could get the house a Cuisianart barbecue house gift. It was on sale at Canadian Tire and I could swear I read somewhere a sign saying ‘easy to assemble”.  That afternoon and evening, Allan a masters student, me with my MD FRCPC  and Adell with her PHD spent 2 1/2 hours assembling this piece de resistance.  True to form the mosquitoes attacked most the one with the tools.  So Allan who was doing the biggest lion’s share of screwing nuts and inserting bolts was their prime target. I was supervising with the blue prints while Adell was assembling parts. It was a lot of fun to work as a group assisting Allan hoping he’d be able to complete the task before the mosquitoes drunk on mosquito repellant drained his last drop of blood. Adell and I got a few bites by the time we finished at dusk having found that the electrical wire and harness for the ignition system wasn’t present in the box.  The barbecue looked great though.
When Graeme arrived the next day he barbecued us all pork loin perfectly.
I’d started to complete the lawn mowing only to have the mower mechanism crash.  My suggestion was to buy a new mower for a few thousand dollars. I felt badly for breaking the mower.  Ron would have nothing of that loving his Scotsman and insisting it could be repaired without too much difficulty.  Not wanting Ron to work at this time, he was only officially allowed to be a ‘consultant’ but nonetheless was soon lying on the garage floor looking at what I’d done to his beloved lawnmower.  Allan and Adell and I again as a technical team separated the mowing mechanism from the tractor.  This time Allan did one side of the disassembly while I lying on my back on the garage floor did the other. Adell was best at handing tools and holding bolts.  We’d used the internet to find a you tube video showing how the disassembly of a Scotsman mower was supposed to go..  Ron’s mower unfortunately was an older version than those on film but the video helped us get an idea of the process. We were as surprised to complete the task as we’d been putting together the barbecue. A wonderful feeling. It turned out that a plastic bag I’d not seen in the tall grass had been sucked into the mower and caused one of the blade assemblies to slow throwing the belt which caught on a guiding bar destroying another ‘thingamajig”.
Graeme, who in his work as a plasma chemical engineer deals with more complex assembly issues that lawnmowers would pull out the thingamajig the next day and with hammer and pliers and file restore this dead thing to life.  Then I’d help him reassemble the lawnmower tractor.  He got bit by the machine on his knuckles for putting in the cawder pins which had got my knuckles bitten pulling them out. Anyone who works on machinery knows it’s not inanimate and that it will do everything in it’s capacity to hurt you back for hurting it.  I had a bruised kuckle and Graeme had nicked fingers so we came off lucky.  Astonishingly Graeme drove the lawn mower and it didn’t explode and actually cut grass. Earlier in the process when the monster was in parts the next door neighbour Redge who has a similar machine had come by to watch with Ron and comment on how they apparently went back together. He’d had to take an older machine apart like we were doing but was thankful that he’d not yet had to disassemble his new John Deere.  It was still one of those neighbourly moments with men standing about looking on at a broken mechanical thing and discussing various solutions.  A real country male bonding moment.
I was glad to be apart of the resolution and obviously Graeme and Allan saved me spending a few thousand.  I got back on the restored lawnmower and headed up the hill back to the the front yard.  In the process of lawn mowing I chased up two moles and one very large and fast rabbit. I got a sun burnt, nearly rolled the machine in a ditch and almost took out one little tree. My brother came by to watch me and laugh as I rode about in circles trying to maintain some semblance of straight lines in the very unlevel terrain broken up by trees and shrubs with hidden rocks and logs threatening to hurt the now very precious machine.
I’d been able to buy a fishing license ironically from a man who works weekends as a pastor.  I chatted about Jesus and the bible with his friend who also attends the local church where a dozen people assemble most Sundays.  I missed that Sunday but certainly look forward to attending another visit as I love Christian worship and the welcome any visitors receive especially in smaller rural congregations.
Mornings I awoke early and walked Eva the cockapoo down to the lake where she and a Canada Goose had their well rehearsed confrontation over territory. One morning this brought three swans to visit. It was apparent from Eva's backward glances at me that with the odds now 4 to one she was counting on my back up.
Graeme who is also a movie maker was all over the property taking short clips he planned to incorporate in his films.  I’m amazed at the patience he has in the editing process.  For hours at a time he’d be off holed away with his computer and some dandelion fuzz blowing in the wind shot of a few minutes he was perfecting for later use in a longer film.
Andrew and Tanya had been to Niagara Falls to celebrate their one year anniversary so we’d been following their travel on Facebook. They arrived and Graeme was able to get us all together for a group photo. He left a space for Allan holding Eva the cockapoo to be photoshopped in because Allan had had to return to Ottawa just before Graeme arrived.
We drove into Kingston Hospital where I had a chance to meet with some doctors. I have a couple of colleagues who I worked with in the past and plan to meet them next time around when there will be more time.  The doctor’s I met were most impressive and I loved the whole professional state of the art atmosphere of the facilities and the helpful pleasant attitudes of staff.
As a family we drove out to a restaurant where I had fish and chips while others had liver and onions.  While I like liver and onions as an adult Ron reminded me of how I detested them as a child.  It’s silly fun reminiscing about childish things with one who shared those times.
Leaving Graeme and Adell to shop in town Ron drove me around Kingston on a tour showing me the harbour, the old jail,  the Royal Military College, and  Fort Henry built in the 1800’s to repulse the American attempts at conquering Canada. We drove about Queen’s University where Andrew had attended engineering before switching to geology at Carlton.  My sailing friend Tom is a Queen’s University engineer so it was interesting to see the campus. The whole town of Kingston is a lovely place which I’d love to tourist about on another occasion. I’ve only passed through it previously and appreciated my brother showing me the magic of the place.
At night we watched a couple of NHL Playoff hockey games, Rangers, Chicago, Annaheim, one night both Ron and I falling asleep in front of the tv so neither of us knew who won until the next morning.  I could have been back in our Fort Garry  home watching hockey as a child. All that was missing was my father’s snoring and the old dog we had back then farting.
Adell made an anorak chair staining the cut wood and assembling it when she wasn’t supervising barbecue assemblies or lawnmower disassemblies and making all kinds of snacks and meals for the family.
One afternoon Ron played guitar and I sang along with him dating ourselves with these 70’s Dylan, Eagles and  Beatles songs we sang as much laughed through.
All in all it was a great visit and too soon I was getting up at 4 in the morning to be driven to the airport by Graeme.  On the flight back I watched the amazing Clint Eastwood movie, American Sniper, a true hero. I cried at the sacrifice of family and the selflessness of soldiers defending each other from enemies they might otherwise befriend were it not for war.
Gilbert was ecstatic to see me even though he must have known I’d been with his friend Eva and he’d not been present. Laura spoils him with treats and walks so he hardly misses me when I’m gone but our reunions are no less ecstatic.
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