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Happy start of a new decade!  I am excited for the new year, and I am also grateful for so much- most especially the fact that the Brothers didn’t burn the house down at midnight.  There were fireworks, of course, and Butch busted out the potato launcher, and someone got out a flame thrower (Rhage had just watched Once Upon A Time In Hollywood so that bright idea started there.)  Fortunately, at least ninety percent of the pyrotechnics were kept to the outside.  YAY!  Five percent more than last year *rolls eyes*.  I’m not a new year’s resolution kind of person, but if I have to choose something to focus on in the up and coming twelve months, it’s going to be living in place where there are even fewer explosions going off.  And if I have to accomplish this by hiding V and Butch’s stashes?  Fine.  Hit me with that felony lolol!
 
I’m kidding.  The only thing I want for the coming year is health, safety and security for all of us in the mansion.  That’s all I need.  The people around the dining room table at First and Last Meal are everything to me.  I want us all eating together... forever.
 
Okay, I need to change the subject before I get all up in my feelings.  So on that note, I’d like to draw your attention to a change in the newsletter.  Lassiter has decided that he is smarter than everybody and therefore wants to start a debate column (Lord help us.)  Each month, he intends on picking a subject and going back and forth with someone on it.  He’s picked Vishous to kick this off with- because that angel is a glutton for punishment, clearly- and I’ll leave you all to witness the carnage on your own.  In the coming months, there may be a few other changes to the format here, but we’re starting off with this first substitution.
 
Anywho, I guess I’m keeping this short and sweet this month.  We had a wonderful, but busy holiday season, and to be honest, I’m just exhausted- as I suspect a lot of people are.  But that’s part of the joy, isn’t it?  Having a lot going on and a lot of people in your life results in this kind of January malaise.  I wouldn’t change a thing, honest.
 
I’ll see everyone in February- get ready for Valentine’s Day!  I think we’re going to do a love-themed issue next month.
 
Hugs, Beth
The true measure of intelligence is how accurately you can throw a cream pie in someone’s face at dinner.  I kid!  I kid!  That’s how you test aim and follow through.  When it comes to smarts, debate is the best way to test one IQ against another.  So of course, in this first, inaugural Point/Counterpoint column, I’ve roped Vishous into being on the other side of the table.  (I actually had to pay him $100- who knew he was that cheap?)
 
Here are the rules.  Five rounds on a topic of my choice where there is a pro and con.  Coin toss determines who gets pro, who gets con.  At the end of the rounds, a winner is determined by a disinterested third party, and the Jelly Donut of Victory is awarded. 
 
This month’s topic:  Lassiter is awesome. 
 
Coin toss results:  Vishous chose heads.  It was tails.  Therefore I got to pick sides, and I took I am NOT awesome.  (Just because I want to hear him speak the truth about my character.)
 
Round I
 
Pro (Vishous):  You didn’t pay me a hundred bucks.
 
Con (Lassiter):  Um... you’re supposed to make your statement.  Not argue about money.  Let’s try again.
 
Round I
 
Pro (V):  You gave up the remote.  For a week.  That was why I agree to do this.
 
Con (Lassiter):  Annnnnnd here comes take three.
 
Round I
 
Pro (V):  You sometimes leave the house.
 
Con (Lassiter):  Wait, what?  I’m sorry, but that is not a reason for me being awesome.
 
Pro:  You don’t know how great it is when you’re gone.
 
Con:  .....
 
Round II
 
Pro (V):  You sleep eight to nine hours a day.
 
Con (Lassiter):  How does that make me-
 
Pro:  We don’t have to deal with you during those eight hours.
 
Round III
 
Pro (V):  Two weeks ago you lost the remote.
 
Con (Lassiter):  Holding on, you’re going too fast with these.  And I didn’t lose the remote!  You hid it.
 
Pro:  Fine.  You didn’t know where the remote was so we didn’t have to watch ALF reruns.
 
Con:  Okay, this is not how I expected this to go.
 
Round IV
 
Pro (V):  You lit your zebra pants on fire on New Year’s Eve.
 
Con (Lassiter):  That was a mistake!  It doesn’t count as a virtue- and you’re not doing this right!
 
Pro:  And now we don’t have to look at those pants anymore.
 
Con:  They weren’t supposed to be flammable, FYI.
 
Round V
 
Pro (V):  You brought Selena back for Trez.
 
Con (Lassiter):  I cannot believe you are being like this- wait, what?
 
Pro:  You heard me.
 
Con:  Did you just say something nice about me?
 
***************************************
Judge’s Corner
 
Mary:  Hi, everyone!  I volunteered to be judge today because I’ve been working with V for the last year on the Agony Column and-
 
Oh, who am I kidding.  I was worried someone was going to need therapy and it wouldn’t be Vishous.  The truth about our angel is that he is sensitive under that joking exterior, and I wanted to make sure no feelings were hurt.  But Vishous didn’t let me down!
 
*shakes her head*  Okay, so both of them are glaring at me right now so I’ll get on with the awarding of the Donut of Victory.  This month’s donut is from Dunkin’ (of course, Butch wouldn’t have it any other way) and it is a chocolate frosted donut, a classic. 
 
I hereby award this symbol of superiority to.... Vishous!  He clearly won this month, and Lassiter, this means you are awesome so... *takes out a second chocolate frosted on a plate*... you get a donut, too, yay!
 
*looks back and forth between the pair*  You can get to eating, you big babies.  V, you did say something nice, and there is nothing wrong with that.  And Lassiter, it’s okay to admit you care what Vishous thinks.  It is, after all, why you picked him and why you engineered the way the coin fell- oh, stop it.  Of course you made the coin land that way. 
 
*14 Minutes of Stony Silence Later* (to the tune of the YouTube accented guy)
 
Mary:  Fine, I’m taking the donuts.  Until next month people- and hey, maybe by then, these two will be speaking again!  *walks off with donuts**runs into Rhage*
 
Rhage:  Oh!  Donuts!  I’m hungry, do you mind?
 
Mary:  No.  G’head.  Those two ninnies back there refuse to be reasonable, and at least you will enjoy-
 
*blinks*  Annnnnnnnnd the donuts are gone, folks.  The donuts are GONE.
Dear Vishous,
 
This letter is hard to write for two reasons.  The first is because what’s prompting it is something that seems to separate me from everybody else.  I am surrounded by people at work and in my personal life who are excited by the new year.  They have resolutions and plans, goals and motivations, and they seem to talk about them all the time.  It’s pretty standard stuff.  Lose weight, save money, drink less, exercise more, be better, do better.  I listen to them in the break room.  I go out with them on Friday or Saturday night.  They text and call me. 
 
Everyone’s into the new year but me.  I’m not excited.  I’m not looking forward to anything.  I put on twenty pounds in the last year and not because I had a baby or something.  I’m not in a relationship, and there are no prospects.  I’m deeper in debt.  I don’t like my job because I’m bored.  My car is old, my apartment is crappy, and every day my alarm goes off, I have to drag myself out of bed. 
 
Before you hit me with the you-have-your-health, you-should-be-grateful, others-have-it-worse-than-you, I know all of that is true and it makes me feel even worse.  I’m thirty-one years old, and abled, and I realize there are no excuses for me feeling so uninspired by life.  I hate the way I feel, but I can’t seem to get myself out of this head space.  And meanwhile, all my coworkers and friends go about their super-fun lives, enjoying everything.  The juxtaposition between all of them and where I’m at just makes me feel worse. 
 
The other reason this is hard to write is because I know you kick people in the a$$, and I know you’re not going to show me any compassion or concern.  And I’m not sure I deserve any, any way.  I’m just reaching out because I don’t know what else to do.  Please help me get out of my own way.
 
Sincerely,
Lame and Ungrateful
 
***************************

Mary:  *glances at V as he lights a hand-rolled*  Well, since my partner in this is busy with his Bic, I’ll start.  I’m not going to call you by your signature because I will not refer to you as lame.  And yes, you’ve related some things that could be considered “ungrateful,” but I feel like there are issues going on for you.
 
Vishous:  *exhales*
 
Mary:  *waits for V to interject*  Um, anyway.  I am not in a position to diagnose you, but from the tone of your letter and the things you’ve described, it sounds as though you are depressed.  There are also some self-esteem problems going on.  The first thing I’d like to encourage you to do is find a professional to talk to.  I think unpacking some of your thoughts and emotions will be helpful.
 
Vishous:  *taps hand-rolled on lip of ashtray*
 
Mary:  *gives V another chance to comment*  Okaaaaay.  The next thing I might suggest is setting some small term goals.  Maybe it’s changing your diet not in a massive, overhaul kind of way that is bound to fail, but in a baby-step fashion.  You could also join a low-cost gym close to your apartment and set a target of two times a week.  You state that you don’t enjoy your job.  Perhaps looking into a promotion where you work, or putting some feelers out for- 
 
V:  *inspects his nail beds*
 
Mary:  *mutters to herself**focuses on V*  Right, let’s cut the crap here, Vishous.  This is supposed to be a back and forth between you and me.  Why are you just sitting there twiddling your thumbs.
 
V:  I just don’t want to upset the snowflake. 
 
Mary:  Do not refer to her as a snowflake.  That’s disrespectful and demeaning.
 
V:  Oh, sorry.  The entitled whiner.  How’s that.
 
Mary:  *puts head in hands*  You can’t say that.  You just can’t.
 
V:  Look, this woman writes in, all whaa-whaaaaaa, I’m so bored and sunk by my ennui, everyone’s life is perfect and mine is so terrible even though I’m employed, have a roof over my head, and have enough disposable income to go out and party with my friends.  Spare me.
 
Mary:  Depression is an insidious disease, V.  It’s a real thing.  And the just-toughen-up routine is not the way to treat it.
 
V:  So we’re supposed to hold her hand and blot her tears while she blabbers on about how she’s being held hostage by her mood?  Please.    
 
Mary:  You don’t know what the underlying issues are.  Maybe there are things in her past-
 
V:  At thirty-one years old, she has to take responsibility for her own life.  You can’t whinge about your parents forever.  At some point, you need to grow up and own your space.  Mommy and Daddy and all the mean things they did to you at your tenth birthday party can’t be the excuse for everything you don’t like about your life.
 
Mary:  How’s your mom, V?
 
V:  Hey, I’m good with where I’m at with her. 
 
Mary:  *dryly*  I can tell.  And you don’t know about her past.  Maybe there is trauma.  Maybe there is-
 
V:  Given how quick she is to list everything that’s wrong for her, I’m very confident that that sh*t would have been listed.  And Lame and Ungrateful knows what I’m going to tell her.  She put it in her damn letter.  She’s going to get no compassion at all.  You want that sh*t from me?  Take responsibility for your life.  Change your job if you don’t like your current one.  You put on twenty pounds in the last year?  Go back to your 2018 diet and exercise and take them off.  Stop it with the “everyone’s life is great but mine” sh*t.  If you honestly believe your coworkers and friends are living in a Utopia, you’re f*cked up.  They all have their own sh*t.  Trust me.  They’re just not talking about it incessantly- or maybe they have mentioned it, but you’re so wrapped up in your own self-inflicted butt hurt, you can’t recognize their struggles. 
 
Mary:  *under her breath*  And to think I wanted him to start talking.  *more loudly*  I want our letter writer to know that most people’s lives go in cycles.  There are times when we feel more stable and purposeful and others when we do not.  When we hit one of those rough patches- which is totally normal- we need to believe that we will survive it.  The key is to develop a tool box of coping skills.  These include support from professionals, family, clergy (if applicable) and friends.  They may include medication and alterations in behavior and journaling.  Change is hard, but it is always possible, whether we believe it or not.  Baby steps will win the race. 
 
V:  F*ck the tool box and to hell with the baby steps.  Grow up.  No one is coming to save you.  No one cares about your life as much as you do.  Your life is your responsibility and nobody else’s.  Expecting the world to wrap its arms around you and pat you on the back and tell you that Everything Is Going To Be Fine is bullsh*t, and using the fact that that is not happening as a justification for depression is beyond lame.  There are people who died before they reached thirty-one years old- do you think they wouldn’t love to be where you are right now?  Life is a gift and you’re treating it like you don’t like the color it came in.  That’s disgraceful as far as I’m concerned and I hope you continue to suffer in your pool of self-absorption and self-pity. 
 
Mary:  *groans*  You can’t say that.  You really can’t-
 
V:  It’s my column.  I can absolutely say it and I will.  *stamps out hand-rolled**gets up from kitchen table**walks away* 
 
Mary:  *shakes her head*  I’m really sorry about that.  And to conclude this rather poor example of partnershipping and advice, I just want to send my support to you, letter writer.  Please know it will get better if you seek help.  There is no shame- at all- in asking for guidance, understanding and a step up.  Let us know how it goes, will you?  I really think small changes, overtime, will solve a lot of what is bothering you.  Until next month, be well everyone!
Happy New Years!  Or is it New Year’s?  I don’t know.  But what I am clear on is that I watched the best movie on the first day of 2020!  Now, I realize this offering may not be to everyone’s taste.  But I also am aware that most of you will not be surprised I loved it.
 
Hobbs & Shaw!  Come on!  You know you wanna!  Johnson.  Statham.  The Rock and the English Blade!  IDRIS ELBA as a badass bad guy.  Vanessa Kirby as Deckard Shaw’s awesome sister.  This movie had everything I like: car chases, car explosions, bromance, romance (just one kiss, but it was epic,) one liners, and a helicopter with a string of trucks on it.
 
Okay, that last thing, I’ve never seen before.  But I want more.
 
The plot is pretty standard action movie:  A deadly virus that threatens humanity.  A cunning bad guy who’s like, part cyborg.  A heroine who deliberately infects herself with the virus.  An unknown mastermind (I have a feeling I know who it is, and I want more so I can find out if I’m right.)  International adventures featuring an opposites-clash team who resolve their differences by the end and form an iron clad, winning alliance.
 
And then there are the Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds cameos.  And the fact that the latter did the voice of the unknown mastermind under the credit “Champ Nightingale.” 
 
Put a hundred pounds of muscle on him and he needs to play me in a movie about the Brotherhood.  Just sayin’.
 
Also, Kevin Hart, who is one of my favorite comedians, as an air marshal looking for a more active role was f*cking hysterical.  I just love him.
 
Oh, and Helen Mirren as Shaw and Hattie’s mom?  LOVE IT.
 
The movie grossed $758 million worldwide (since its release August 8, 2019) and I have to believe that means we’ll get another offering with this pairing.  I’ve never watched any of the Fast & Furious films, but I’m all in on Hobbs & Shaw.  I might try the others as origin films- and I understand that the ninth movie in the F&F series is coming?  Also, I would note that both Johnson and Statham were producers on Hobbs & Shaw so I am hoping this means they got a percentage of all that revenue that came in.  The Rock is one of my go-to action stars and I just want all the good things for that man. 
 
There was only one problem with this movie.  It was so good, I forgot to do a moment by moment commentary.  So here are my global thoughts on what worked for me (nothing didn’t really work, FYI.  My criticisms are very minor.)
1.  Cars and Motorized Conveyances 
 
Okay, so Idris Elba’s disassembling/reassembling, call-it-like-a-dog-and-it-comes-you bike?  Badass as they come.  There’s a chase scene in the first act where Statham is in a McLaren, trying to rescue Hattie (his sister, the heroine) from Brixton (Elba), and that bike does tricks like you can’t believe.  It literally rolls into its component parts so that it can squeeze under a truck and comes back to whole on the far side. 

I would also like to note that this chase ends with Elba blasting through the second story of a two decker bus and landing on the pavement on the other side.  It was awesome- and reveals another thing I love about this movie.  Lack of cleanup or complications.  But that’s my next point so hold that thought.

But the bike isn’t the only automotive eye candy.  Even Brixton’s brigade is badass.  He has a lineup of Range Rovers with plenty of post-production modification that follows him wherever he goes, even across the globe from Russia to the gorgeous island of Samoa.

The true beauties, however, are the trucks from the chop shop on the island.  These modified half-backs and wholies are works of art, and they steal the show at the climax of the third act.  Stop reading if you don’t want a spoiler- but DAMN.  Like four or five of these bad boys end up strung together thanks to their winches and swinging over a cliff drop off thanks to  a helicopter.  I nearly threw up.  This impossible, but visually arresting, little routine only got better then the main winch’s steel cable spools out from its clamp-wheel and the Rock has TO HOLD ON TO THE HELICOPTER HIMSELF.  WITH HIS BARE FRICKIN’ HANDS.

I have a man crush on the guy, k?

My third note ties into this scene, and so many others, so I’m going to stop now.

Just know that there are tons of car crashes and explosions (the cliff pyrotechnics were awesome!) which is exactly as you’d expect from this franchise.

I have only one criticism of the cars and moving violations.  And it’s about Shaw’s McLaren.  Not the other one in his garage/liar.  It’s the one he does the first act chase scene with.  Now, I love a good McLaren.  Butterfly doors, great engine notes, good styling- I can’t fit in them, but that’s true of basically anything short of a Tahoe (and how the f*ck did they get the Rock, Statham and Vanessa in one of them together?)  The problem is the color.

It’s like, navy blue.

The scene is great, that car weaving in and out of traffic like crazy, the roaring engine, the cuts to the paddle shifters and the accelerator/brake pedals adding to the buzz.  There’s even an obvious plug of the label (there’s another one for Chrysler, I think it was, on the dashboard of one of the chopped trucks) which I liked because it’s so blatant and unapologetic. 

That color, though.

I get that Shaw is the refined Englishman, the opposite of Hobbs’s brash persona.  But then give the bastard something pearlescent white.  Or brushed gold.  Navy, though?  It was a f*cking snooze that only the car’s performance and handling saved.

Do better next time, folks.
2.  Total Lack of Cleanup or Complication
           
As you all are no doubt aware, the brothers and I and other fighters f*ck a lot of sh*t up.  We do our thing downtown against the enemy and there is a lot of collateral damage:  There are cops who are called in by humans and need to be erased.  There are witnesses that have to be tracked down and erased.  There are holes in buildings and bullets in cars and remember that time when Fritz took Trez through the glass-fronted lobby of that skyscraper?  Or how about when Assail lit that mansion on fire? 

All of the aftermath is a pain in the a$$.  It’s what I hate most about my job.  See, at the end of a takedown or infiltration, after you’ve ridden your adrenaline and aggression, you’re f*cking tired.  You might be injured.  You’re hungry and thirsty (at least I always am.)  The last thing you want to do is f*ck around with the proverbial vacuum.

Hobbs & Shaw exist in my dream world.  Remember that double decker bus I said Elba crashed through?  As he lands on the far side on broken glass on the pavement and looks to the wake of Hobbs & Shaw and Hattie, I thought to myself... if that sh*t actually happened in downtown London- hell, if even the chase through traffic happened- there’d be hell to pay with the world at large.  Like, when Hattie is captured by Elba and Elba and his men repel down that skyscraper?  While trading bullets with Hobbs?  That sh*t would be all over the news.  And yes, in the film, when Elba frames Hobbs & Shaw, some of it gets addressed by the media.  But are you even kidding me about how messy that would be to cleanup?  How complicated?

But the film doesn’t even address aftermath.  It’s just like, yeah, whatever, so there was a car chase and guns going off in the middle of London.  So what.  We’re moving on.

I love this world.

I am jealous of this world.

I want this to be my reality.

Could you imagine how much easier it would be to f*ck sh*t up and just walk away?  No questions asked by humans.  Or human authorities. 

Love this.  And instead of taking me out of my suspension of disbelief, it just embedded me further into the film.

 ‘Cuz jealousy.  Hello.
 
3.  CGI
           
Given my affection for action films, it should be no surprise that I’m fussy about my CGI.  Nothing f*cks my viewing pleasure faster than bad computer generated imagery.  Now, granted, over the last ten years, the sh*t’s gotten better across the board, but with this movie, I had a conscious thought during the string-of-trucks footage that the CGI was really good.  It was the first time in the two hour run that I was even thinking about how the images I was looking at had been made.  So kudos!

 I would also like to take this opportunity to shout out the director, David Leitch.  Deadpool is my favorite action franchise and he directed the second, which I liked better than the first.  (Come ON from the X-Force parachute sequence.)  Leitch was the right director for this movie, and I hope he does more of them.  And more Deadpools, hello.
 
4.  Bromance
           
I want to be the Rock’s BFF.  And Statham plays a perfect straight man to his charisma.  The pair of them have some awesome exchanges, but I think one of the best (it’s a hard call, tbh, to pick just one) is when they’re talking about Hobbs dating Shaw's sister.
                                                                      
Hobbs:  So you actually think that I’m not going through all this effort, on this mission, trying to save the world, by the way, for a fourth time, because I’m really good at it.  You think I’m going through all of this just so I can do the horizontal hula, sexy-sexy time with your sister?

Shaw:  Not all.  Most.

Hobbs:  Let me break it down for you, Frodo.  This ain’t 1955 anymore.  Alright, despite the fact that that girl sleeping right there is related to you, she’s still one of the toughest, baddest, most capable women I’ve ever encountered in my entire life.  And if she chooses to look the way of this big, brown, well-endowed, tattooed, mountain of a man, then guess what.  I’m going to let her climb this mountain over, and over, and over again.
 
LOLOLOLOLOLOL!
There are just so many good volleys, and one of my absolute favorite scenes is when Hobbs and Shaw are infiltrating the bad guy lair and they have to choose doors.  There are two side by side, and Shaw ends up having to Bruce Lee an entire squad while Hobbs only has to  knock out one Andre the Giant with a single punch.  As Shaw fights all these guys, Hobbs just drags his piece of meet along on the other side of a glass wall.  It’s frickin’ hysterical.
 
Wait, I have to do another two:
 
(At the airport check in.)

British Customs Officer:  Mike Oxmaul?

*pause*

Hobbs:  I go by Michael.
 
(On the plane.)

Hobbs:  You couldn’t have booked an emergency row for a little bit more legroom, huh?  Not everybody has hobbit legs like you.

Shaw:  Hey, look, in case you didn’t realize, I could give a damn about your comfort.  So why don’t you be a good elephant, suck up another kilo of peanuts, put your chair back and relax?  
 
Okay, I’ll end on this exchange which defines their conflict so well.  It’s from when they learn they have to do a mission together.  LOLOLOLOL!
 
Hobbs:  No fucking way!

Shaw:  No fucking way!

Hobbs:  No, I’m not working with this guy.  I’ve been there, done that.

Shaw:  The minute he gets involved, you can kiss goodbye to any finesse, because She-Hulk here only knows how to smash.

Hobbs:  Yeah, Mr. Arson here only knows how to blow shit up.

Shaw:  And the fact is...

Hobbs:  And the fact is...

Shaw:  No offense.

Hobbs:  No offense.

At the same time:  This guy’s a real a$$hole.
 
5.  The Romance        
 
I’m sorry, but I wanted the Rock to get the girl (as long as she wanted him back, and she did.)  I love the respect he pays Hattie, and how badass she is even though she’s the love interest.  The fact that Shaw eventually works with the Rock (and Hobbs’s amazing family- OMG I love those guys so hard!) and the enemy is defeated makes the relationship between Hattie and Hobbs a possibility.  And then there’s the cliff side kiss at sunset. 

I’m not blushing. 

You are.  You are the one who is blushing.
 
So there we have it!  Hobbs & Shaw I, that will lead, I am hoping, into a Hobbs & Shaw II!  Watch this movie and love it like I have!
 
Well, until next month, I wish you happy viewing!  And yes... we’ll be doing a romance flick in honor of Valentine’s day.  *sigh*  I am a sap, but I own that sh*t.
 
Toodles,
 
Rhage
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