One Maxim, Two Movies

Yesterday, I propounded the SBIFF Axiom due to an illuminating experience at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. But since it is a universal principle, the name seems a bit parochial. Therefore, I am immodestly redubbing it Monroe’s Maxim. If Peter can have a principle and Ohm a law, I see no reason I can’t have a lousy maxim.

Monroe’s Maxim states: To learn what really matters to any person, business or institution no matter what they say, find out who they treat really well and who really badly.

Latest instance. A week before my daughter’s annual physical, she was required to go to her doctor’s office early in the morning without eating breakfast in order to pee in a cup and have her blood drawn. Elapsed time ought to have been 10 minutes, not counting the 15 or 20 minute drive in rush hour each way. Under an hour, however.

But no! First she had to wait in the outer office. Then she got moved to the lab’s waiting area to wait some more for an available bloodletter. Then she was told the wait would be longer due to a computer malfunction, though it would seem blood could be drawn and a cup provided for urine without the need for tech so that the patient could be on his or her way to work. At no time of course was there any apology for the delay. Waiting is what patients are expected to do without a peep no matter how long it might take.

This is not an exception but the norm for medical practices that seem not to grasp the fact that patients have a life beyond their office.  A job, say, which they need in order to earn enough money to allow them to pay their doctor bills. So, according to Monroe’s Maxim, patients are obviously not what the medical practice cares about. So what is important? The doctors and their ability to throughput as many patients as possible so as to maximize revenues. The doctor’s time is pure gold to be budgeted wisely, nay ruthlessly. The patient’s time is expendable. Causing them to lose an hour or two is of no interest. Causing the doctor to lose five minutes of billable time is a cataclysm.

Thumbs Up! Having vented about the maltreatment of steerage class filmgoers at Santa Barbara, I thought I ought to mention a couple excellent films we actually got to see after running the gantlet the festival erected to make it difficult.

Two Lives, a German film with Liv Ullmann in a supporting role and Juliane Koehler in an impressive star turn, is a reality based drama about the children of Norwegian mothers and German fathers from the invading Nazi military who were forcibly removed to the Reich. Years after the war ended, the mother’s were still trying to find and reunite with their abducted children. In an even darker Cold War turn, in some cases the East German secret police infiltrated imposters to pose as the lost children and spy on the West. The true facts about one mother and her supposed daughter slowly but inexorably come to light in this absorbing drama that demonstrates that truth really is stranger than fiction.

U want me 2 kill him? is an English film also based on an actual case. A successful and popular high school age lad has his life ruined when he falls under the spell of a duplicitous and possibly mad enchanter via social media. Creepy and beautifully acted by the young stars. And a warning that the internet can be a hall of mirrors where all is not as it seems and innocent bystanders can be duped into dangerously compromising positions by connivers more clever than the average Nigerian Prince.


The SBIFF Axiom or Why Are They Treating Me So Badly?

Life recently took me to Santa Barbara. Actually, wife took me to Santa Barbara, but it comes to the same thing. While there I was forced to notice how you can tell what really matters to any business, institution or endeavor. And I have dubbed the answer the SBIFF Axiom: those who matter are those who get treated well and vice versa.

SBIFF is the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and it happened to be going on during our visit which seemed cool. Pay $125 for a pass good for 10 movies. A bit pricey on a per film basis, but new movies, foreign movies, auteur films, oddball films, documentaries not likely to show up in Podunk or on Netflix.

Of course there were gold-plated plans starting at $350 for access to all movies with some rising as high as thousands of dollars for the chance hobnob with (or at least be in the same room with) Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford , Leo and Scorcese, Bruce Dern or Oprah.

But we were content just to mosey in and sample some movies. Then came the surprise. Those without the pricier all-access passes had to show up an hour before each screening and stand in line to get a numbered card.

Then 20 minutes before the film they had to return and stand in line again in numerical order and wait for the VIPs to be seated. If there were 50 seats left, numbers 1 through 50 would be seated and the poor saps at the end of the breadline would be told to come back, stand in line for a different movie and try again.

I have been to other film festivals that simply sell a pass which you can swap for tickets, first come first served for each showing. Show up, get ticket, see movie. At first I thought SBIFF was just incredibly ill-managed, a Rube Goldberg film fest, abusive to its patrons.

But then it dawned on me that this was a Santa Barbara film festival and it made sense. The city is a bastion of the one percent where dozens of wealthy celebrities have one of their many homes – Michael Douglas, Eddie Vedder, Oprah again, Cheryl Tiegs, Ryan Reynolds, several Beach Boys, Stevie Nicks, Jeff Bridges, Sue Grafton. You get the idea.

So of course the festival is designed to give priority to the platinum members and to treat the average Joe like a coach passenger flying stand-by. It is designed for people willing to pay thousands to dress up and see and be seen at opening and closing ceremonies and other red carpet gala events, not for people who just want to see 10 movies in 5 days and answer “Costco” to the question “Who are you wearing?”

Thus the SBIFF Axiom: You can figure out what really matters to a company, charity, political party or film festival by seeing who they treat really well and who they treat really badly.

Lagniappe: When we couldn’t get a seat at a film, we did find out where to get really well fed. Beautifully prepared and presented French at Petit Valentien. For a particularly good deal, the four course Sunday Prix Fixe dinner. Fantastic Italian at Trattoria Grappolo in the Sideways wine country of Santa Ynez where the bread and olive oil alone are worth the price of admission. Try the sole, the pizza, the pounded pork with prosciutto and brie. Great Mexican all over town, try breakfast at Rose Cafe, tacos at Cuernavaca and the entire menu at Los Agaves. And for perfectly nice Middle Eastern with a nifty visual experience, dine outdoors at the flaming tables of Zaytoon. And on your way back to Podunk, stop in at the Zaca Mesa winery for Rhone varietal blends. They’ll be happy to ship you a case or you can check it and throw your luggage away. Bon appétit.

Ask Your Doctor If Poizona Is Right for You

It’s probably a demographic thing, but I seem to watch the kind of TV show only people over 80 watch, judging by the commercials they air. None are aimed at young people under, say, fifty, hoping to sell them hip-hop fashions, murderous video games, strange flavored beer or coffee, earphones, gadgets you can tweet with.

No, on my programs I get incessant ads for grab bars in the bathroom, hospital style beds, jewelry that can summon the ambulance, home break-in surveillance services and, of course, ads damming candidates for threatening to raise taxes or cut my Social Security, Medicare, and prescription drug subsidy.

But the number one category of ad is for those pills themselves. And no matter what they purport to cure or palliate, the ads are all as identical as political attack ads.

Video: The most beautiful and fit 40-year-olds in the world are pretending to be 70 or older. He is ruggedly handsome in an outdoor shirt of the sort candidates don to show they are manly men. She is drop dead gorgeous, incredibly shapely with bedroom eyes, but a hint of upscale mom, accentuated by casual fashions suitable for a stroll around Martha Stewart’s herb garden. They walk hand in hand.

Audio: (in soothing, trustworthy tones) You’ve been side by side in all kinds of weather practically forever. But lately she’s no longer the insatiable tigress you remember and you’re not exactly standing tall in the saddle, if you get my drift. Also, every muscle and joint in your body aches and you can’t remember your children’s’ names or where you live.

You could simply be getting a little older but it might be UH, unsightly hangnails caused by skin as dry as the Kalahari. Ask your doctor if Poizona is right for you. One little deeply-tanned tablet a day and you could be moist again.

Video: They loll in a hammock-for-two, overlooking a beach unpolluted by another soul. They stand by their tent gazing into a soft-focus Denali or Yosemite paradise also blissfully free of other life forms.

Audio: (speaking really fast) Like all pills ever invented, Poizona will probably damage your liver. Tell your doctor if you are an alcoholic, IV drug user, have ever had a prescription for anything or eat food grown with the aid of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer, dirt or water. Poizona users have reported thoughts of suicide, homicide, matricide and alien abduction. Some people have experienced mild symptoms of headache, nausea, vomiting, bleeding from the eyes, cancer, sudden heart stoppage and strokes so severe they sit in a chair and drool for the rest of their lives.

Video: He may do something macho like cast a rod while she demurely picks up seashells until a look passes between them and we cut to crashing waves like those that accompanied Burt and Deborah consummating their forbidden passion in “From Here to Eternity.”

Audio: If you think you might have UH, tell your doctor about Poizona and start living life to the fullest. With Poizona, you and old what’s-her-name, can be as close again as she claims you once were. Bring back the days of wine and roses. Well, okay, the days of Ensure and hypoallergenic lichen.