Poem 4: Dickensian Wounds

These delicate wounds have humbled me.

They’ve made me stand, so proud and keen.

All those fears you told me to frame

inside my meek heart

have broken down inside of each beat.

 

These steady delusions that I’ve stumbled upon

have made me fight a mirror of mirages.

There’s a weeping rush of broken sweat

that emanates from what was once

a blistering doubt.

 

I’m no longer the striking erosion you

thought I’d become,

an acute sensation of what they

all thought was to come.

Lying here,

with hopes and dreams

and still beliefs

is a future that you had once believed.

 

These mounting murmurs that come from your mouths

will falter freely with every lost journey that you took.

You can’t reproach me anymore,

nothing will stop me now.

 

These final days I’ll stand by you

our hands clasped

together

one wound to another.

 

 

Poem 3: Charlottenburg 1986

Do you remember the days when we were friends…

 

when that fertile field felt funny under my feet

with stones that ricocheted razor-sharp

against the pillars of Reichstag and grazed

against my swollen back.

 

New napalmed Nazi signs blazed

and branded onto the timid tender

arms of you, a Catholic girl that shaded and shifted your

arms with pulsing childlike blended skin.

 

Chilling and chastising accounts of open canopies

marred the city’s blooming clouds that were

floating over the crafty graffiti on the wall and

floating by a breeze that blazed over the rumbling S-Bahn.

 

Your hasty heaving screams pierced near my body

blocking my bloodshot bursting eyes

shifted once by the steel-glazed guns and

shifted by broken daisies left dangling and deserted.

 

For now, you and I will still remain under close watch

under their piercing, tranquil stares

praying that the gloom of the city will swallow us

praying that the memories of our mind will vanish

forever.

 

Unless otherwise noted, everything on this website, including all text, photos, and recipes, are copyrighted (c) by the author himself.

Revisiting Toys: A Look Back at Toy Story

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When 1994 ended, one of the greatest years in movie history ended (sorry, 1939!).  Pulp Fiction brought about John Travolta’s comeback.   Shawshank Redemption became the greatest prison drama film of all time (sorry, Escape from Alcatraz).  Forrest Gump showed audiences worldwide what was possible when meshing history with Tom Hanks.  Two of today’s renowned directors showcased their abilities in their directorial debuts, Kevin Smith with Clerks and before he went to Middle Earth, Peter Jackson with Heavenly Creatures .  Then, there was, at that point, in what my opinion was the crowning achievement in animation, The Lion King.

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The Lion King had beautifully drawn 2-D characters that told an epic story, one that was Shakespearean in scope.  (Not really surprising…it was loosely based on “Hamlet”.)  It had music beautifully composed and songs that were written by Elton John.  It had voices provided by James Earl Jones (that booming voice), Jeremy Irons and Whoopi Goldberg.  It had memorable characters, from Simba to Mufasa to Scar, and these characters live on today on stage in its successful musical production.  It couldn’t possibly be beaten, right?

Of course…then comes 1995, which would bring about a film that would change the game of animation forever.  Today, CGI has become a major factor in many animated feature films and it all began with Pixar, the company behind this film.

The movie is, of course, Toy Story – the first computer generated feature film and the reason for the success of many films that would follow, not just from Pixar, but other studios from DreamWorks, Sony and Universal.  So, in a way, I guess you could say that Toy Story became a test subject for other films and succeeded in its mission to prove that films could be spectacular and tell an emotional story, too.

Toy Story, in case you’ve been living on an uninhabited island for the past 24 years, is about a group of toys that learn about friendship and try to overcome the elements that test it.  Voiced by the aforementioned Hanks, Woody is the leader of a gang of toys that include Mr. Potato Head (the late Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (the late Jim Varney), Rex (voiced by Wallace Shawn) and Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), plus various other toys owned by Andy (voiced by John Morris).

The story begins with Andy’s birthday party and causes the toys to become stressed that one of them may be replaced with a new toy.  As the party moves forward, they become relieved when there are no new gadgets that can break their bond…but wait, just as they are about to go back to their normal duties, in comes the introduction of Andy’s newest gift, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen).

It is at this point in the film that a common trait emerges that can be apparent in us – envy.  The reason why the film works is because of how relatable these toys become.  Imagine being the popular kid in the neighborhood until a new boy or girl moves in to the area and gets much of the attention.  We’ve been there, whether it’s at home, school or work and we can sense how Woody feels with the arrival of Buzz.  In turn, Woody begins to feel isolated, which in turn makes him jealous and annoyed.

Through the rage and frustration that Woody is feeling, he accidentally causes Buzz to topple out the window.  The other toys don’t see it the same way and feel it was done on purpose, thus we get Woody now feeling misunderstood as well (another feeling, I’m sure, we know all too well).  Andy, who begins to look for Buzz and can’t find him, has to settle for Woody.  And so Andy, his mom and Woody make the journey to “Pizza Planet”.  Also, joining them is Buzz and after a series of mishaps, both he and Woody find themselves in the “Claw Machine”.  Of course, they’re “won” as a prize and the winner is Andy’s next door neighbor, Sid.

Woody begins to realize that he has to work with Buzz in order to escape the wrath and crazy antics of Sid and in order to do so, they need the help of Sid’s other mutilated toys.  In the meantime, Buzz goes from “happy-go-lucky” to depressed when he finds out that he’s just a toy.  It is now Woody that needs to turn him around and get him to realize that without him, they won’t be able to return home.  Just like human relationships, the friendship between Woody and Buzz starts rocky, but begins to grow with mutual admiration.  Woody and Buzz escape Sid’s lair.

They realize that they missed the departure of Andy and company.  Involving a dog, a race car and a rocket, the other toys realize that Woody is trying to help Buzz, not hurt him.  Soon, they land in the back seat and Andy, who thought he had lost both of them, is reunited with them.  As the first film ends, Woody and Buzz and the rest of the gang end up in the new home.

andy

Up to this point, this animated gem is the most realistic film in the genre with lively characters and personalities that match our own.  It’s a film about friendship and about sharing a bond and using (especially if you’re an 80s kid), familiar moments in our own childhood.  Not only does this film set out to accomplish a legacy, but it’s the reason for Pixar’s success for almost 25 years.

FINAL GRADE:  A

 

What kind of childhood memories, if any, does this film evoke for you?  Do you see other themes in the film?  Is there a Pixar film you believe to better?  Sound off in the “Comments” section and next time, I will be reviewing the second installment in the series.

MOTIVATION FACTOR #5: The Monthly Goal List

Previous Motivation Factors:

MOTIVATION FACTOR #1: Buy A Notebook, Not A Planner.

MOTIVATION FACTOR #2: Set Yearly SMART Goals

MOTIVATION FACTOR #3: Divide Your Major Goals Into Mini-Goals

MOTIVATION FACTOR #4: Create a Master List

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In the previous factors, we’ve covered two of the five elements of the “Base 5 System”.  As a reminder, the first element was setting ten goals for the year and then setting mini-goals for the first goal you were going to work on.  The second element was the master list.  This is where you write down every single item to work on including your mini-goals.  Now that you’ve got that done, it’s time to use both of them to assess your monthly goals.

Your monthly goals or monthly list works a little different than the yearly goals you set.  (I may be using monthly goals and monthly list interchangeably here, so feel free to call it whatever works best for you.)  If you’re using a college-ruled notebook (which I’ve recommended), I usually keep my monthly list to always 30 items.  So as you look over your previous two subjects in the notebook, you want to list the 30 most important things you’ve got to do for the next 30 days (or 31 or 28…depending on what month you’re in obviously).  You don’t have to list them in any certain order right now, you’re just making a list of those 30 items you want to work on through the month.

Finished?  Ok, now that you’ve got that list down, next to those 30 items, draw a vertical line down the page.  Next to those 30 items, put a date down when you’d like to complete them.  You don’t have to have a date for every item.  For example, if an item carries over to another month or it’s not high on the priority list, you may not want to set a date yet and that’s ok.  But if there’s something that must be completed by a certain deadline, by all means, put that date down.  I usually have dates with about half of the items on the list.

Got that done?  Great…draw another vertical line next to that.  Now comes the prioritization part.  Decide what your top 6 items on the list are and mark them with the letter “A”.  Once you’re done with that, take the next six items, and mark them with a “B”.  Keep doing that until you have A through E marked six times each.  Now that you’ve finished that, go back to your “A” items and number those in order of importance with a “1”, “2”, etc.  Then, do the same with the other lettered items.  So you should now have a list that ranges from “A-1” to “E-6”.  Your month has now begun.

I will come back in a few blogs to this list, but for next time, I will go over the Weekly List.

 

If you do use this system and would like to leave a comment on how it goes for you, please feel free.  Thank you for reading another “Motivation Factor”.

MOTIVATION FACTOR #4: Create a Master List

For previous factors, click on the following links:

MOTIVATION FACTOR #1: Buy A Notebook, Not A Planner.

MOTIVATION FACTOR #2: Set Yearly SMART Goals

MOTIVATION FACTOR #3: Divide Your Major Goals Into Mini-Goals

The fourth motivation factor is very simple.  It’s creating a master list, which means a list of practically everything you’re going to do.  I reserve the second subject of the 5 subject notebook for the “Master List.”  It’s a list of what you do daily, what you do weekly, what you do monthly, and quarterly, and every six months, and….well, you get the point.

The one thing I don’t recommend is hurrying the process up so that you forget something.  You’re putting down a lot of things….I even include sleeping, brushing my teeth – things that are part of my daily routine.  However, make it specific…if your goal is to sleep 8 hours a day, then write that instead of just “sleep”.  Another thing on the master list is to write in the planner every day.  You’re really writing down everything you’re going to be doing.

Think of your weekly engagements.  A simple goal for the week may be to work 40 hours, but you still write that.  It can be anything from attending church on Sundays to playing in that weekly Bingo game.

Think of things during the months.  If you know you’re going to be celebrating someone’s birthday in the next month, write that down.  The one thing that is important about the master list is that you want to make sure it’s updated thoroughly at all times, especially before a new month hits because the things that are going to go on your monthly list come from your master list.

You also want to include the goals that you set in Subject #1.  That includes the big, large goals and the mini-goals.  I also put down deadlines and anything else important that goes with it.  The monthly list is going to be based on whatever you have put on your master list.  The weekly list is going to be based on what you have on the monthly list and the daily list is going to be based on the weekly list, so you can see the importance of the master list.

So, in summary:

Subject #1:  Yearly Goals and Mini-goals.

Subject #2:  Master List

 

Next week, I’ll go more in depth about how the Master List and Monthly Goals work together.

Revisiting Rocky: A Final Word on the Rocky Series

Rocky IV Review

Rocky V Review

Rocky III Review

Rocky II Review

Creed Review

Rocky Balboa Review

Rocky Review

 

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Simply said, the Rocky series provides inspiration to many people.  With its underdog story, the iconic characters, the motivational music, and quotable lines – the film series has become the “role model of movies”.  Not just in the US, but around the world, the films have become an example of great storytelling with uplifting themes.

I was in Germany when I first started watching the films and I remember how big of a star Sylvester Stallone became.  In fact, his portrayal of his character in Rocky IV was so realistic that I remember there being a big story about how East Germany wouldn’t let him into their country.  They felt that the actor had anti-Russian feelings (which of course wasn’t true).  To many people, the Rocky story is similar to their lives.  For those of us striving to prove that we can “go the distance” in whatever we do, the inspiration is Rocky Balboa.

The character arc of Rocky Balboa is exactly what many of us go through – we live our lives at crossroads, personally and professionally.  When many others don’t believe in us, whether it’s our bosses, our co-workers, ourselves, some do and it’s that one moment of belief that helps us to get motivated to live the best life we can for ourselves.  Men and women will find inspiration in the love between Rocky and Adrian.  After a few times of awkwardness, they finally realize they love each other.  Then, Adrian is rushed to the hospital during her pregnancy and into a coma.  With Rocky by her side, Adrian comes out of it and together they have a baby boy.  When Rocky is down and out, Adrian is the one that lifts him up and reminds him that they’re in it together.  She’s there for him as a wife, but also as his best friend.  And even when Rocky’s relationship with his son goes sour, Adrian is the one to bond them together again.  All the way to her tragic death, she stands by Rocky’s side and even after she’s gone, she still provides the spark he needs in his life.

Rocky’s life is filled with various characters, besides Adrian.  He has a mentor in Mickey Goldmill and a friend in Paulie.  He also has a friend in Apollo Creed (eventually grown out of respect) and Gazzo (sparingly).  And even through his enemies, he learned valuable lessons.  (“You ain’t so bad” to Clubber Lang and he learned that people change fighting a Russian – who knew?).

The Rocky story is the ultimate story.  It blends themes of “life and death”, “friendship and hostility”, “rags to riches”, a life cycle that spans over 40 years.  The Rocky story is a story for yesterday’s generation, but also the generation that will come tomorrow.  It gives us the motivation to realize that no matter what life brings, we’re moving forward.  We’ll be OK.  You know how I know?  Because of the stuff in the basement.

We’ve gone the distance.  Yo, we did it, Rock.

Next week, we’ll revisit another inspirational story – one filled with childhood memories, toys, and someone to tell us to take our lives “to infinity and beyond.”

MOTIVATION FACTOR #3: Divide Your Major Goals Into Mini-Goals

goals

So now that you have a list of goals, written in the SMART format, what do you do?  It’s actually really simple as you take the first goal and work on that one.  For myself, I still use the first subject of a five-subject notebook and I skip a space in between the 10 yearly goals and the first goal I want to work on.

So after a skipped space, rewrite the first goal (either the first one in sequence or the first one in priority) and make sure you include the deadline.  Now you’re going to break that goal into mini-goals by brainstorming EVERYTHING you need to do to get the goal accomplished.  Don’t worry about what you have and don’t have, just write down all the things you need to do to get your goal moving to the end.  There’s really no set number, I just write until I can’t think of anything else.

Once you’re finished with that, you now have a major yearly goal written down with a list of mini-goals.  With that list of mini-goals, you’re going to do the same thing you did before and that’s put two numbers down afterwards, a sequence number and a priority number.  While this process may take a while (depending on how large of a goal you’ve set), I’ve also found it to be organized and motivational.

Now that you have that list finished, it’s time to get started on that first mini-goal.  Just like your major goals, this one should also be written with a deadline in mind.  And just like your major goals, it should be realistic.  Give yourself a few days to finish it if you have to…the idea is to make sure you don’t set an unrealistic time and then finding yourself overwhelmed when other goals begin crossing over at the same time.  It’s many cases it’s not life-ending if you don’t meet your deadline right away.  Just extend it and keep working at it.

Once you’ve finished that part, you can move on to the next mini-goal and work on that.  The idea is to just keep taking baby steps towards finishing the goal.  There will be barriers along the way, obstacles that you didn’t foresee and that’s OK because we can’t predict every fathom of life.  For myself, I take a deep breath and just move forward.  You can’t change anything in your past, so don’t dwell on a mistake or something that happened that stopped you in your tracks, just think of how you can get back to the task at hand.

As you start finishing your first major goal, you can then repeat the process with your second goal.  If able, you can start your second major goal while working on your first or you can wait and start and finish your first one.  If it starts to get overwhelming, go back to your earlier goal and complete that first because the last thing you want to do is start on something, put it aside and then forget about it.

Continue on until you finish all your goals that you’ve set.  Some of them may be pushed further down the road, some of them may be surprisingly started earlier.  No matter what, you’re now on your way to working on things that will help you feel happier and more accomplished in life.  Good luck as you move towards a more successful life!

Next week, I will go over the fourth motivation factor.

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back at Rocky

To read the previous review on Rocky IV – please click here.

To read the previous review on Rocky V – please click here.

To read the previous review on Rocky III – please click here.

To read the previous review on Rocky II – please click here.

To read the previous review on Creed – please click here.

To read the previous review on Rocky Balboa – please click here.

With barely a hundred dollars in the bank, only a couple credits to his name and an unproven writer, Sylvester Stallone wrote a script in 3 days in desperation.  The idea sprung from watching a boxing match between Chuck Wepner and Muhammad Ali and shadowed much of Stallone’s own life, about an underdog knowing he didn’t have many more chances to “go the distance”.  And luckily, Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff decided to take a chance on this young kid and produce his film.  And that’s how Rocky was born.

Back in 1976, who knew that this small budgeted film would generate seven sequels and a formula that would spawn other films,  from Karate Kid to Bloodsport and bring about a whole new genre of films – that of the underdog story.  From action figures, a resurgence of Burgess Meredith’s career and a statue in Philadelphia to memorable montages, inspirational songs and a “Yo” thrown in here and there, Rocky would be the beginning of a whole new era.

rocky

The film memorably begins with Rocky (Stallone) facing Spider Rico (Pedro Lovell) in front of a mural of Jesus Christ, foreshadowing a theme of resurrection.  A depleted audience watches the fight and when the two boxers return to the locker room, Rocky earns enough money to go back to his worn-down apartment with his two roommates, two turtles named Cuff and Link.

I love the beginning of the film because it sets an example of exactly what a screenplay should do.  Rocky is poor, depressed, alone….we feel for him at this point.  It sets up the whole story because we are unsure (at least if you watched it for the first time in 1976) where the story is going to go.  A great introduction to a great character.

The one element that makes Rocky the best film in the series in my opinion is the quiet moments, the moments where you look into the eyes of a character and know what the person is feeling.  There is a subtle scene in the beginning of the film that is an example of this – where Rocky stares at a picture that is placed in the frame of a mirror in his bathroom.  The picture is that of Rocky as a boy and as he picks it up and just stares at it, once again it’s not Stallone telling the audience how to feel, but the audience is feeling the solitude of the character in those moments.

mirror

The following scene introduces one of the greatest love stories in cinema history, at least from my point of view.  Rocky meets a bespectacled girl in a pet shop – none other than Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire).  Again, look closely and you will see a subtle look from Rocky to Adrian, and that look tells the whole story of who Rocky wants to be and whom Adrian is.

There’s a whole other subplot here with a character named Gazzo (Joe Spinell, who would be gone after the next film).  Rocky is a struggling boxer and to make ends meet, he helps Gazzo with retaining money and valuables.  Yes, Rocky works for a loan shark.  Rocky’s job is to use any means necessary to get Gazzo what he wants, even breaking thumbs.  But the character of Rocky is sympathetic and understanding, thus he goes against the orders of his boss and lets the guy go.  We meet Gazzo with his bodyguard (Joe Sorbello), who gets about as close to a villain as you’ll get in this film.  For whatever reason, Rocky and the bodyguard don’t get along, but Gazzo’s bodyguard does give Rocky the great idea of taking Adrian to the zoo…where he will eventually propose to her…so I guess you take the good with the bad.

We are introduced to Mickey (Meredith) in the next scene.  If Rocky is the “heart” of the story and Adrian is the “soul” of the story, then Mickey is the “blood” of the story, the character that keeps the characters pumping and motivated.  In the scene, Mickey doesn’t have time for Rocky, while Rocky wants to prove that he’s not a “bum” (the word Mickey uses for every one of Rocky’s opponents).  “You ever think about retiring?” Mickey asks.  Rocky says “No.”  And Mickey’s classic response and the reason why this movie is great – “Well…think about it.”  Great dialogue brings about great characters and if you need any proof…there it is.

burgess

There is a character introduced in the film and it really doesn’t pay dividends until five movies later, but the character is “Little Marie” (played by Jodi Letizia in this film).  He walks her home, getting sassy remarks, putting her sassy fingers in her pockets, chewing gum sassily, and finally a sassy “Screw you, Creepo!”  (Ouch?)  Again, it goes to show that Rocky wants to be someone, but even teenage girls are able to walk over him.

In the meantime, there is a man named Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers), who is frustrated and angry at the thought that his opponent won’t be able to fight him, but Creed is a fighter and charitable and so he decides he’s going to extend his love to an unknown and show some brotherly love in…well, “the City of Brotherly Love”.  And so he opens up a hardcover book, a “Boxers Almanac” of some sort and discovers a local fighter that goes by the name of “The Italian Stallion”.  And because Creed is convinced that the country was founded by an Italian and he represents the real American hero, they must fight on the bicentennial date of its founding (which really doesn’t make sense because Columbus didn’t “find” America on July 4th…but we’ll leave it at that.)  So Creed wants to fight this Italian boxer (who is, of course, Rocky Balboa) in the hopes of embarrassing a Philadelphia local.  Rocky eventually agrees to the match and the fight is set…Apollo Creed, the champion vs. Rocky Balboa, the “Italian Stallion”.

The final major character we meet is Adrian’s brother and one of Rocky’s best friends (or maybe his only friend, if we don’t count the beloved hard-shelled Cuff and Link).  This is Paulie Pennino (Burt Young) and we learn many things about who his character is with his interactions with Rocky and Adrian.  He’s an alcoholic, he’s loud, he’s obnoxious and he bullies his sister.  Everything about him screams that this guy is a major jerk, but there’s a part that makes you feel sorry for him, too.  He forces his sister to retreat to her room, allowing one of the greatest conversations between a human and non-human ever.  “Rocky, meet Mr. Door – Mr. Door meet Rocky.”  There’s no doubt that Rocky stroking the door in a gentle up and down motion has the door falling in love with him, just as much as the woman behind it.  Eventually, woman wins and out the couple go on a date in an ice skating rink, taking the advice of Paulie, who is convinced that his sister’s favorite hobby is skating.  Of course, we find out that Paulie doesn’t know anything about Adrian and so we cope with the fact that one has to jog around the rink, while the other flutters on her skates.

The next part of the date goes to Rocky’s house, where Adrian feels nervous and Rocky ignores it.  She wants to go home, but Rocky wants her to stay.  She feels uncomfortable, but he still wants her to stay.  He tries to kiss her, she tries to push him away.  The more I think about it, the more this scene would probably not fly today.  Adrian does finally give in as they hold and kiss each other.

One of my favorite scenes is the scene at Rocky’s apartment with Mickey.  Mickey now knows that Rocky gets to face the champion and Mickey wants to be a part of that.  He makes some small talk with Rocky before telling him that he wants to take his role as his manager, which Rocky declines.  Because Mickey doesn’t take “no” for an answer, Rocky’s emotions finally come out in the form of anger.  He yells at Mickey about coming over to his place all these years later…and elbows the wall.  And then as Mickey slowly walks out and towards the darkness, Rocky runs after him and gives him a hug.  We can’t hear what they say, but before that moment, we can feel what Mickey feels and we can feel what Rocky feels – sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, aging – it all comes together in a mutual admiration between mentor and student, and symbolically, father and son.

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From this point, some of the workouts and montages begin.  You’ve seen them here, you’ve seen them there, you’ve seen them everywhere…the drinking of the raw eggs, the running with the dog, the punching of the bag, and the running of the steps with the song “Gonna Fly Now” in the background.  And we can’t forget the bloody hands from using a meat rack as a punching bag, either.

meat

And then comes a key scene that tells us everything we need to know about the relationship between the Penninos.  Paulie hears Rocky talking about him, where he feels betrayed and wants Rocky to leave, but Adrian begins to stand up for herself and tells Paulie that Rocky is going to stay.  Paulie goes on a tirade with a baseball bat.  “You owe me!” Paulie screams and this enrages Adrian even more as Adrian screams back at him – “What do I owe you?”  Paulie whimpers at this point.  There’s an underlying message here that the relationship between Adrian and Paulie has come to this point since their parents died.  Paulie, just like Rocky, is lonely, but instead of calm and quiet, he is enraged and frustrated and most of it comes out on his sister.  Adrian has now gone from the shy, meek girl who was bullied to the girl who now stands up for herself and won’t take it anymore.  The character arcs in this film are phenomenal.

The next couple scenes are key in that it’s the final motivation and realization of why Rocky is doing this.  He stands alone in the middle of the Philadelphia Spectrum and looks at a poster of himself.  The promoter, Mr. Jergens (played by Thayer David), walks in and when Rocky tells him the shorts in the poster are wrong, Mr. Jergens replies with a “It doesn’t really matter now, does it, Rocky?”  Rocky’s eyes tell the story – he’s hurt and everyone thinks he’ll be forgotten after this whole ordeal.  And when he returns to the apartment and lays next to Adrian, he tells her that all he wants to do is “go the distance.”  The relationship has now gone from just a casual acquaintance to friends to boyfriend and girlfriend and here to a relationship of support.  Rocky needs Adrian there to tell her he’s not a loser or a bum, that he’s someone and she needs the same.

And so we finally get to the main event….literally as it’s time for Rocky and Apollo to square off.  With a little Joe Frazier cameo at the beginning, the two begin a memorable fight to the end.  Adrian stays in the back, while Rocky fights his heart out.  Creed gets knocked down, Rocky gets knocked down, both bleed with Rocky’s eye cut.  The fight becomes a back and forth event, assisted by the amazing Bill Conti music that plays over it.  Apollo thinks this fight would have gone easier, but Rocky shows that he’s going for it all.  And when it’s all said and done, both men are left standing with the crowd on their feet.  The heartwarming ending with Rocky screaming “Adrian” while being interviewed tells the story of what the film is really about – not a fight, but love.  Apollo is announced as the winner, but Rocky did it – he went the distance and he may have lost a match, but he gained a new love.

And as we fade out, little did we know, the film would become a cultural milestone in film history, earning itself awards across the year and becoming a forerunner of many other films to come.

FINAL GRADE:  A

 

What did you think of the first film?  Do you agree it’s the best in the series?  Whether you love the film or think it’s outdated, please send a comment.  Next week, I take a final look at the whole Rocky series.

 

 

 

MOTIVATION FACTOR #2: Set Yearly SMART Goals

goals

 

When you set a goal, and you stick with it long enough, the goal lingers and whether you want to or not, you work on it little by little.  That’s the great thing with SMART goals, in that whether you meet the deadline or not, you’re probably going to achieve it.  No matter how hard it is, setting goals is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

Last week, I talked about buying a 5 subject notebook and dedicating that first section to making yearly goals.  What I’ve done is set 10 goals and allowed myself a deadline for each within the next twelve months to finish them.  When you set a goal, the best thing to do is to set them the SMART way.  In case you don’t know by now:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Timely

The first thing you have to do is make it specific.  A general goal would be something simple like “Make money”.  But what does that mean?  If you have a job, you already make money, but there’s no amount specifically and the words “make money” won’t make anyone achieve anything bigger.  Do those words really motivate anyone?  A specific goal is clear and will make someone work hard for it.

The second element is measurable.  Measurable means you have something to work towards.  If we go back to the “Make Money” goal, this part will allow you to answer “how much”.  So instead of “Make money”, let’s state “to make $45,000 with my job.”  Now you have something to work towards and the question becomes “How do I make $45,000 with my job?”  Now you have a goal that is measurable and more specific.

The third part is asking yourself whether your goal is achievable.  For someone that is making $40,000, a goal of making five thousand dollars more isn’t really unrealistic.  It can be achieved.  But if you’re already looking for a six figure income at this point, you may be setting your goals too high and when you do that, you start losing motivation to want to achieve your goals.  And with no motivation comes dejection and failure.  So it’s important that one sets a goal that is as realistic as possible.

The next thing – the ‘R’ in SMART – is making your goal relevant.  Simply put, why is it that you want to “make $45,000 at your job.”  Is it because you have an absolute need for it or just because you want to make more money than another person?  Is it because you care or because you’ve been told “more money is better”?  Make sure you are absolutely passionate about achieving your goal.  If you’re struggling to make ends meet, making more money is going to be very important to you and that’s why it would be relevant to you.  You want to make sure you want to keep going forward with your goal.

Finally, your goal needs to be associated with time.  When I was in school, the one thing that always kept me on track was the fact that I only had a certain period of time to finish my assignment.  If I knew a homework assignment was due soon, I had to scramble sometimes to finish it.  Goals also need to have a deadline so we make an effort to finish it as soon as possible.  “To make $45,000 at my job by September 30, 2018”.  Now you have a deadline to go for and it allows you to continually check your progress, especially as you get closer to that deadline.

There is one other thing to mention about these goals.  They should be SMART, but they should also allow you to attain some kind of balance in life.  To do that, you don’t want to set goals all in the same area.  Depending on whom you follow (if anyone), there are either 7 or 9 areas to set goals (listed below.)  I like to set goals in different areas, so I’m not finding myself getting overwhelmed.  Some of them will cross over to other areas.  A lot of my financial life has to do with my career.  My relationship with my wife also concerns my family and so on.

  1. Career
  2. Family
  3. Financial
  4. Health
  5. Personal Development
  6. Recreation
  7. Relationship
  8. Social
  9. Spiritual

Your first challenge was easy – to buy a 5 subject notebook.  It’s cheap and affordable and will do what most planners can do as well.  If you have accomplished that, it’s time for your second challenge.

Challenge #2:  Make a list of 10 goals you would like to achieve in the next calendar year.  Make sure you use the SMART formula and balance them by setting them in one of the nine areas.  Also, when you set them, keep them in the present tense.  In parentheses, follow them with two numbers…the first number is sequence, the second number is priority.

EXAMPLE:  I make $45,000 at my job by September 30, 2018.  (2, 1)

That means that this specific goal is second in sequential order, but my top priority.

Next week:  How to get started on a yearly goal.

Revisiting Rocky: A Look Back at Rocky Balboa

To read my previous review on Rocky IV – please click here.

To read my previous review on Rocky V – please click here.

To read my previous review on Rocky III – please click here.

To read my previous review on Rocky II – please click here.

To read my previous review on Creed – please click here.

If there is going to be a film franchise, the best idea is to never go above and beyond when a story is worn out.  That is why most of them end after a trilogy.  Stories are contained and memorable.  It’s what makes films like the Back to the Future series or the Godfather trilogy watchable time and time again.  I would even go as far as saying that the Tobey Maguire Spider-man films are watchable as a trilogy because even though the third film had more characters than needed, it got the job done by finishing and wrapping up the storylines that were introduced in the first two films.  Then, there are the series that go on well past their time (I’m looking at you, James Bond!).

So then, it should be no surprise that I was a little leery when it was announced that a sixth Rocky film was in the making.  Not only were they making another Rocky film, but it would be without the inclusion of Talia Shire (Adrian in the previous films) as the film would surround her death in between the time of the fifth and sixth films.  Not only that…but the film doesn’t even get to have a roman numeral in its title.  It’s not called Rocky VI…it’s called Rocky Balboa.  And how can you call a film part of a series when it doesn’t allow for a borrowed numerical entity of our beloved imperial Romans, especially since the film is about an Italian Stallion?  All my rambles about Romans aside, the point is I was really not sure if another film was necessary, but because the previous film had ended in a bizarre and strange way, I suppose this film needed to redeem some of what the Rocky series stood for.

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The beginning of the film introduces us to a now-widowed Rocky (Sylvester Stallone).  As in the first film, Rocky has his own traditions – talking to an Italian priest in English, feeding his turtles (Cuff and Link, oh how I miss yous!), and of course, visiting Adrian in a pet shop to tell her the worst joke of the day.  Here he lives alone again and again he is comforted by visiting Adrian, only this time around it’s her grave.  Visiting her as well is her brother, Paulie (the great Burt Young), who stands distant from the Balboas.  Paulie’s character here is great.  We begin to understand the guilt that has eroded him these past few years, as he feels guilty about the way he treated Adrian.  Paulie’s only way to get past it is to break free from it.  And while Rocky may need his brother-in-law with him as they share that bond of being Adrian’s two closest men in her life, he also knows Paulie best and understands he has to let him grieve in his own way.

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In Rocky V, one of the subplots involved Rocky’s relationship with his son, Robert (the late Sage Stallone).  In that film, Junior was slighted when his father helped Tommy Gunn and didn’t spend much time with him.  In this film, Junior (now played by This is Us’ Milo Ventimiglia) lives his own life with his own job, but has also lived in the shadow of his father’s ongoing fame, causing a fractured relationship between the two.  While not explicitly stated, it is not hard to see that Adrian’s death has caused a division among all three men in her lives, Paulie, Rocky and Robert.

This film is still a love story like the other films, even without Adrian.  Rocky’s devotion to his wife continues throughout the film.  The same kindhearted spirit that ran through Adrian is felt in the spirit of Rocky and how he treats others around him, including the patrons of his restaurant and the returning character of Little Marie (now just Marie – played by Geraldine Hughes).  The relationship is not one of love in the same sense as Adrian and Rocky, but one in which they both fill each other’s solitude and empty lives.  Just like Rocky, Marie is trying her best to make it as a single parent.  And just like Adrian, Marie is the shy girl who’s unsure about the outside world.  Luckily, Rocky is there to save her and get her a job.  (And Marie is there to let Rocky know that “Fighters Fight” in case he forgot…yes, it’s a cheesy line, but still better than telling someone that “if he dies, he dies”.)

There is, of course, a challenge in the form of Mason “The Line” Dixon (played once again by a real life boxer – Antonio Tarver).  This fight, however, doesn’t come from an opponent being picked out of a book, or one of revenge, or one where a boxer insults another boxer’s wife, or because they come from two different nationalities, or jealousy…no, this one comes due to a computer simulation brought to you by ESPN.  And because SIM Rocky defeated SIM Mason, egos are bruised and Rocky is asked to lace up his gloves again.

There are complications, though.  One, Rocky has to get licensed again, a problem since medical issues have halted his career ever since his fight with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).  But luckily, Rocky is around to remind the board of equality and the Bill of Rights and the pursuit of happiness.  The other obstacle is Robert.  Rocky, Jr isn’t too happy with the notion of having his father fight again, but his father has to remind him that selfishness will have no place in their lives.  In what is probably the most inspiring speech in the film series (and maybe even in film history), Rocky reminds him “it’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”  And then caps it off, reminding him he has a mother and not to forget to say “hi”.  Rocky the younger takes all this to heart and finally stands together with his father (because…hey…”fighters fight”).

And then we get introduced again to the unsung hero of pretty much every film, Tony “The Duke” (Tony Burton), who provides my favorite line of his – “Let’s start building some hurtin’ bombs”.  And with that comes the music, the training and everybody standing up shadowboxing right along with it.

I want to talk about a couple other key scenes that involve our beloved Paulie.  Towards the beginning of the film, Paulie is the one who stands by him as Rocky explains what he’s feeling about his late wife.  He asks him to explain what is happening “in the basement” (you know, the “heart” of the matter).  And as Rocky and Paulie finally share a moment that is not filled with Paulie’s sarcasm, we understand what pushes Rocky towards all this confusion.  The scene pays off when Paulie is fired from his job and as Rocky follows him out of “Adrian’s” Restaurant – Paulie gets to provide that final inspiration for Rocky to set forth before his match – “You’ll be alright, Rock.  Because of the stuff in the basement”.

Of course, Paulie decides to get back to his unique ways by selecting Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes” for the entrance song for Rocky.  The fight is the best fight since the first film, with great choreography and the ability to mix music and fighting and everything together.  At the end, much like the original installment, Rocky doesn’t care about the win or loss…he cares about the fact that he went the distance.  Rocky leaves to a standing ovation and the admiration of his friends and family.

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The last scene – the most poignant scene in the series – Rocky stands at the grave of Adrian.  And just like he’s done in every previous film, he gratefully acknowledges her, only this time in spirit.  “Yo Adrian, we did it.”  And as he walks away, it marks the final shot of the Rocky series…at least, I would have been happy with that ending (but instead his character lives on in the Creed franchise.).

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All in all, the film is beautiful and provides a more satisfying and impactful conclusion than the fifth film would have.  The Rocky story goes full circle with the Rocky-Adrian dynamic coming to a loving conclusion…and although more films follow (hopefully, one last one and that’s it), this is the perfect end to their love and relationship.

That is the reason why I’ve rated this film higher than Creed.  While Creed provides another element in Rocky’s life, this film allows every major character to get a credible finish.  Robert reunites with his father.  Paulie, despite being fired and losing his sister, is able to stand with his brother-in-law.  And Adrian, even in death, provides the strength that everyone needs.

FINAL GRADE:  A-

 

Where does this film rank in your opinion compared to the rest of them?  Do you agree or disagree with the fact that this film is needed?  Is it a proper ending to the series or do you envision it differently?  Hit me up with a comment again.  Next week, we are finally there.  My review on Rocky.