Philip Seymour Hoffman, Another Senseless Victim of Addiction

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Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman

This morning I clicked onto the headlines to see what was happening around the world and was jarred by the sad news that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had died at 46, apparently from a drug overdose.  Hoffman was one of my favorite actors, perhaps one of the finest actors I have ever seen. Each time a new movie would come out staring Philip Seymour Hoffman, we wouldn’t wait for the DVD, we would go to the cinema to watch it. His performance in “The Master” was one of the most powerful pieces of acting I have ever seen.  He was brilliant in “Doubt”, electrifying in “Charlie Wilson’s War” and masterful in “Capote”.

Drama as a genre is my favorite.  In my DVD’s you’ll find movies starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Michael Shannon, Robert Di Niro and Al Pacino. My movie collection contains an equally magnificent assortment of films with women like Dame Judy Dench, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett.  I relish great acting, and feel sad at the prospect of never seeing a new film from Philip Seymour Hoffman ever again. All day I’ve been trying to come to grips with the loss, it’s going to take a while to accept.

What makes it harder as a long time fan of Mr Hoffman’s work is speculation he died from a drug overdose, a heroin overdose, and had been separated from his partner since October, and that he was a Father to three middle school aged children.   Was it hopelessness? Was it heartbreak?  Was it boredom? Was it selfishness? What was it that allowed the dark vines of addiction reach out to such a gifted man and pull him back under? A talented, complex man like Hoffman would be hard to truly figure out based on the body of work he left us. The depth in each of the characters, the intensity, the passion.  In “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead“, Hoffman played Andy Hanson, a man who had been embezzling money from his firm, and was about to coax his younger sibling played by Ethan Hawke into joining him in a scheme to rob his parents business so they could benefit from the insurance money. In the movie there were scenes where Andy would visit a heroin dealer who would inject him. The apartment was a new age, feng shui, high end Manhattan apartment, much like the $10,000 per month abode Mr. Hoffman had been renting since October. These scenes seemed a little out of place in the movie, a little too raw for my own taste. I wonder now if these scenes might have posed a risk of triggering Hoffman.  When he died, he had been clean for 23 years.

I will never understand drug addiction. Heroin is a killer. Last week I heard about a new blend of heroin that’s made with Fentanyl, a powerful pain killer, more powerful than  morphine. Twenty eight addicts had died in one town in just two weeks. Truly frightening.  Heroin scares me.  I once started to watch the film “Trainspotting” starring Ewan McGregor, but was so disturbed by the heroin scenes, I had to turn it off.   Heroin has killed so many of our most beloved artists and musicians. Drugs in general are killing thousands.

Tonight I am sad for Mr. Hoffman’s family, his little children and the acting community who have lost one of the greatest actors of our generation. It will take me a long time to get over Philip Seymour Hoffman. I am truly gutted.

Deafness and relationships

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Stephani met me when I was in my early 30’s and by then my hearing loss had started to manifest its self, mostly in social settings, where I had started to retreat from loud environments.  She puts up with a lot. It must be tough having to repeat yourself constantly.    My hearing loss is profound in my left ear, and partial on the right. If I can control my environment, sitting in a particular seat in relation to a gathering I am more comfortable, however, if I end up with someone to my left, event with my cross-aid hearing aids, it can be a real challenge understanding what is being said to me.   The other thing is misunderstanding things completely if I am not wearing my hearing aids.

This video was published on the Phonak “Hearing Like Me” site.  It encapsulates a very upbeat version of what life is like for a hearing impaired or deaf person vs. what it is like for the hearing person.   I think reality is somewhat less rosy than this lovely picture, particularly when you balance things like the stresses of traveling with a hearing impaired individual, anxiety and confusion with other emotions like pride or fear of humiliation.   If I could put my life experience into one sentence it would be “bashing through it, one day at a time”.   I’d give anything to have my hearing back, honestly I would.

So, what has your experience been? If you are similar to us, what is life like for you?

He was loved

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It’s been an emotional day.  We attended a beautiful mass in Fountain Valley for Stephani’s cousin, Tony Cardullo Jr., who passed away suddenly in mid November over in Thailand. We heard so many moving eulogies. It was a day of tears.

Following the service Tony’s parents hosted a very special reception at the Huntington Beach Hilton. Hundreds of people who knew Tony came together to celebrate his life.  And what a life it was. Today I learned that Tony was in a band in the 80’s, even played the same festival as No Doubt back in the day. Listening to his brother Andrew describe him,  Tony was a driven, but kind and compassionate man who lived the life he wanted to live.  Red tape, bureaucracy, procedures that hold us all back did not exist for Tony.  He was a person who always looked on the bright side of life, always gave others the benefit of the doubt, and later in life became something of a local hero to the people in his community, volunteering his time, working with the homeless and less fortunate.

Tony was a very successful business man. While working on a film in Thailand some years ago, he fell in love with the place and decided to set down roots and become part of the community. He was loved by so many people.  He took care of his employees, and was very generous and compassionate to his fellow man.

Listening to his friends and family speak today, all of them still very broken up by his loss, I had a real feeling of regret that I had but a few scant opportunities to spend time with Tony.   He was a person who initiated and nurtured friendships. He was a true friend.  I could use a friend right now.  The world seems like such a lonely place without Tony in it.

 


Irish Getaway

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I’ve been in Ireland with Stephani for about 10 days visiting family and exploring the parts we missed out on last time. The last time we were in Ireland together was 2008 and our visit involved a day trip to Dublin and return train to Belfast five hours later, so this time we made sure to book ourselves hotel for five nights so we could thoroughly explore.

On the first part of the trip, we stopped in to setup my Mum on broadband, her first experience using a computer in the form of an iPad which I am hoping she takes to. While in Belfast we went to PRONI (Public Records of Northern Ireland) to lookup information on my great grandfather who had worked in the shipyards, taking part in the build of Titanic in the early 1900’s.  We also got to see exactly how large Titanic was, walking the marked off concrete on the exact location of the former dry dock.


Samson & Goliath Cranes - Belfast

Samson & Goliath Cranes – Belfast

In Southern Ireland, our friends Mark and Jill flew over to take us for an amazing day trip to the Glendalough Valley where we explored an ancient village and wonderful nature walk in the crisp Irish air.  My head feels much clearer from it.


So, we are sitting in Heathrow waiting for our flight to begin boarding so we can make the last leg of the trip home and get back to our work-rest-play-work-rest-work routine.   I’d like to spend more time visiting Ireland and England to see more of where I grew up and find out more about my family origins.

 

Aldershot Turning Into a Ghost Town

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Aldershot Wellington Statue

I grew up in Aldershot, am proud to say that’s where I hail from. Aldershot used to be the home of the Army. Wellington settled the troops there after Waterloo. Aldershot was a Historic Military Town in the truest sense.

This weekend I have been participating in a sentimental trip down memory lane on Facebook in a group setup by Keith Bean, an Aldershot local. We have been remembering our teachers, the football team’s struggles, the trouble we used to get into, and how far away from Aldershot many of us now live.  Some of us moved to other parts of England, some of us ended up down under in Australia and others like myself are in America.

Even though I am half way around the world in glorious, afluent Orange County, I still care about the place I grew up. I really wish Aldershot could rise like a phoenix from the ashes and become a thriving metropolis.

Here’s a little video taken inside Aldershot’s Wellington Centre mall, the main mall in the town center. When I visited the town after 25 years back in 2008 it looked the same, and this video made a year ago November 12th confirms the place is a ghost town. It makes me sad to see the place I grew up going through such hard times.

Watch Video

When the Army left, it blasted a gaping hole into the infrastructure which had kept the town going for many years. The town had been in general decline for decades, but the Army leaving was the final nail in the coffin.

Here’s a two-part documentary I filmed back in 2008 in Aldershot.

Part 2

I hope there is some master plan that we don’t all know about which includes a solution which will turn the situation around in Aldershot.

Hat’s off to Keith Bean for creating such a vibrant group.

On Old Pictures and The Shining

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Image:  instagram.com/skyzzle

Do you have a shoe box or old cigar box full of old photos?  I do. I like to pull it out every so often to glance at them.  None of the pictures are older than 30 years or so, I wish I had more of my grandparents and great grandparents.   My great grandfather helped to build the Titanic so they tell me. Would love to know if there are pictures of him floating around, would love to know what he looked like.

Photos help to link us to our past. They help to connect us to who we are, or who we were. When I look at old pictures of myself, I can’t believe how relatively normal I look, while remembering how insecure I always felt about how I looked. I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where I have felt happy with my appearance.  Today I am happy. I can look in the mirror and accept that this is my 49 year old version. I try not to be so hard on myself, after all, we all get older and our bodies change, we lose our hair, the wrinkles come a creeping.

There’s a great scene at the very end of the film “The Shining.”  Music plays from the roaring twenties as the camera pans in on a large photograph of a New Years Eve party which took place at the Overlook hotel. The camera zooms right in on the main character, Jack Torrance, laughing, dressed in a tuxedo, having the time of his life.   Sometimes I wonder if there is a photo floating around of my great grandfather doing the same thing.

So, do you have a shoe box or cigar box full of old photos?  Send me a tweet so I can take a look.

 

Tis The Season of Discontent for Common Courtessy

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I like to walk around the mall and listen to music during lunch. The other day when I was on my way back to work, I stepped off the curb where a large gray SUV was parked in front of the exit door. There was a BMW which had stopped in front of it by the curb. I glanced to my left and noticed the mall security car was approaching to get the cars out of the way when I felt a very hard thump on my right shoulder. It felt like someone had given me a hefty punch. I turned to my right and felt the back end of this large SUV pushing the entire right side of my body out of the way. I exclaimed Woah!! and took a look at the driver, it was a woman, nicely dressed with a sequined hat on. She didn’t even roll her window down or look at me, she was too busy maneuvering her SUV around the BMW.

At first it didn’t bother me, but the more I thought about it as I drove back to work, the angrier I got. I mean, this is supposed to be the holiday season when we walk the talk of good will toward our fellow man, and this woman didn’t give a hoot about almost knocking me to the ground. What if it had been a little kid, what if I was not almost past the back of her car? It could have ended much worse, but had it been me who had done this, I would have at least got out of my car to apologize.

Maybe its Orange County and the way the people around here act. Everyone is so busy and wrapped up in themselves, jumping from moment to moment missing the moment in the process.

Let’s be more careful out there. Let’s take better care of each other. When we hit people with our SUV’s, let’s take a second to apologize.