Brothers (2009) Film

If you have yet to see this film, do yourself a favor and watch it. It stars Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, all of whom turn in fine performances. The film deals with the psychological damage caused by war and how it affects veterans and their families.

The tale revolves around 3 main characters: Captain Sam Cahill, his wife Grace, and the “black sheep” brother, Tommy. Sam is a war hero, and a great husband, father, and brother. He has a big heart, often being the only person in his family who cares after his brother, Tommy, an individual with a sordid past who has never lived up to his family’s expectations. Tommy has never been able to make anything meaningful of his life, and has given up trying to live up to the high standards set by his older brother, Sam.

When Sam is shipped off to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty, his helicopter is gunned down by the Taliban and he and a member of his squad are taken prisoner. They have to endure months of torture and mistreatement at the hands of their captors. Meanwhile, Grace has been wrongly informed that her husband was killed in action, so she has to deal with the grief of losing a husband and a father to her children. In the midst of the upheaval at the Cahill household, Tommy steps up and begins to help out by doing work around the house and taking care of his brother’s 2 girls. He grows closer to Grace and the children as he begins to regain a sense of belonging through his new relationship with them.

Sam Cahill is rescued from his captors, brought back home, and once again hailed as a “hero” by his community. He tries to get back into the routine of being a good husband and father, but it is difficult. The war has done its damage. His mind wanders and he considers the worst in situations. It is a chilling moment when at the crux of the film, he turns to his brother Tommy and asks him if he slept with his wife. It is a chilling moment that I expected (from having watched the trailer) but found powerful nonetheless. The downward spiral continues for Captain Cahill and his family.

In all, wonderful performances and great writing. It definitely makes me want to check out the original 2004 Danish film Brødre which takes place in Afghanistan and Denmark. This is a well-done exploration of the psychological repercussions of war for soldiers and their families.

4 out of 5 stars.

Crazy Commutes — How Long Is Too Long?

The past few weeks haven’t been the greatest in terms of traffic.  If I were to travel to my work on a day without the usual work day traffic, it would take me slightly more than an hour.  That wouldn’t be so bad, but of course, that’s not my usual work trip.  On “good” traffic days, I average about an hour and a half each way.  Add a little fender bender, construction, or some guy on the side of the road with a flat tire and you can easily tack on an extra half hour.  Any serious accident, and you’re talking maybe 3 hours to get from point A to point B.  During these times, I sit in my car and stew as I inch my way towards my destination.  There are few things more frustrating than sitting in traffic and not moving…especially on a hot day.

So why do I–and many other Americans–do this?  Why do we put ourselves through these terrible commutes?  My observations:

– Home prices in the San Francisco Bay Area are ridiculous!  I would love to live in a place like Alameda, California…if I could afford it.

– Alas, living in the Bay Area would mean renting a smaller home or apartment.  Doesn’t sound too bad until you throw in the kids and spouse into the mix.  It’s hard enough to keep our sanity living in our current home.

– Stability.  I’d hate to uproot my kids from their school, friends, etc.

– Greed?  Sometimes I wonder if I’m greedy for wanting to keep a certain standard of living.  In this case, living in a 2000 square foot house vs a 1000 square foot (and possibly more expensive) apartment.

But seriously, is an extra thousand feet of living space worth putting yourself through a hellish daily drive?  If you think about it, you are killing a good 2 hours daily.  That is time you will never get back.  I tried listening to language lessons during my commute.  It works…but it can get old.  The bottom line is: the commute is long and I will never get used to it.  That being said, I will probably keep doing it  (if it’s up to me) until I win te lottery.

Check out my daily morning drive here:

The Commute

Hotel Gastoff zur Muhle, Ismaning, Germany.

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I was on a business trip in Germany and happened to stay in a small town called Ismaning. I arrived at Munich International Airport (MUC) and bought a S-Bahn ticket to Ismaning.  Destination: Hotel Zur Muhle.  After a 12 hour plane ride and not much sleep, I was ready to go freshen up and catch some sleep.

On the train to Ismaning, my first thought was, “Wow, this is out in the boondocks.”

My second thought was, “This is quite beautiful, it reminds me of growing up in Sonoma County, in Northern California.”

Ismaning is a charming town.  It is extremely clean, quiet, and has character.  It also has an S-Bahn station, so you’re only a 20 minute train ride to beautiful Munich, Bavaria’s capital.  It was only a 10 minute walk from the train station to the hotel–very convenient.

Thoughts on Hotel Gastoff Zur Muhle

The hotel is a family run establishment, and it is very nice.  The rooms are small, but very clean and they have everything you’ll need, including a nice shower with good water pressure.  The hotel also has a nice restaurant and a large outdoor biergarten.

Dining recommendation: for about 10 Euros, don’t miss out on trying the pork knuckle.  It is a typical Bavarian dish, and believe me, it tastes better than it sounds.  It comes with 2 fluffy potato dumplings and a side of kraut (cabbage salad).  The skin of the pork knuckle is crispy, but the inside meat is tender and moist.  A very satisfying meal–it is quite an accomplishment to actually finish it.  Of course, any meal should be accompanied by a tall glass of tasty German beer.

Breakfast: Breakfast is included in the cost of the room.  I gravitated to the delicious pretzel bread, and to the cuts of cold meat and various cheeses.  You are not going to find bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, etc, but you won’t miss it.  A nice slice of bread sprinkled with olive oil along with tomato and fresh mozarella is a wonderful breakfast.  Plus the cheeses are great.

I recommend this hotel if you are planning to come to the Munich area and don’t necessarily want to be in the big city.  As stated above, this is a nice, quiet alternative that is charming, but close enough to Munich’s wonders because of the S-Bahn (train).  An all day S-Bahn ticket will cost you 7 Euros.

Drawbacks: No air conditioning.  If it is hot during your visit, ask the front desk for a fan.

Tip: if you fail to bring a European outlet converter, ask for one at the front desk.

Extra Tip: if you want regular bottled water as served in America, ask for “still” or “no gas” water.  Otherwise, the default is mineral water in a little glass.

Tidbits of Truth and Nonsense