Sherlock Holmes, Mission Impossible, The Art of Shaving, Wages

Sherlock Holmes & Mission Impossible

I have been looking forward to two movies this holiday season. One of them was as good as I’d hoped it would be. The other disappointed me because the story tellers forgot to make things clear. The two movies were Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

I loved the first Sherlock Holmes movie—the story was intriguing and plotted well, the atmosphere and music were amazing, and the characters and relationships were even better. In fact, the movie presented some of the most delightful characters I’ve enjoyed over the last few years. So it was a no-brainer to plan in a date to see this new episode.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows provided the same great atmosphere and music as I enjoyed before. Holmes and Watson were as wonderful as they’d ever been. The film introduced a wonderful new character: Madam Simza Heron, a gutsy gypsy who you can’t help but want to know better. And it brought on Professor James Moriarty, the uber-villian. There was plenty of the wit that we enjoyed in the first one. It had all the elements to work.

However, the film fell down in its plotting. There were many times when I had no idea why the characters were doing what they were doing or how it fit into the overall threat. At other times, it appeared Sherlock could have taken out the villain but didn’t only because it would have ruined the plot.

The film makers also decided to kill off one of the characters, and therefore relationships, that had provided so much satisfaction in the first movie. And they did it without much fanfare. Who thinks it’s a good idea to kill off beloved characters like that? If you’re going to kill someone we love, you’d better make it meaningful and the core of the film. Alas, they didn’t.

In fact, it felt like there was too much stuffed into this film. Cool ideas that couldn’t be explored or have much impact including facial surgery for spies, a lost brother, European politics, resistance fighters, a henchman we hardly see. The wonderful Madam Simza Heron didn’t play the pivotal role she could have. So unlike Irene Adler in the first movie who becomes central to the story, she’s more of a bit of the setting.

If you loved the first film, you’ll have to see this. There’s a lot of good. But you must go knowing it’s a grade lower than the first film.

Now, I stopped liking the Mission Impossible movies about thirty minutes into the second in the series. But the previews for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol intrigued me. I like Tom Cruise as an actor. And so we decided to give it a try.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol didn’t provide the atmosphere or super-delightful characters and relationships of Sherlock Holmes. But that’s not to say its characters were tepid. On the contrary, the cast was great with a lot of funny interplay. Furthermore, unlike some action films where everything seems to work for the hero, a lot of things go wrong for Tom Cruise’s character. These problems and his reactions are part of what make the movie.

The story also provided plenty of “action” but did it in a new way. This is the first time, for example, I’ve seen a car chase in a sandstorm. And it was a fab chase. It’s also the first time I’ve seen a final battle in an automated parking lot. The director and writers did a good job choosing new twists on common action elements.

But a story needs more than characters and new sights—the plot has to make sense. Especially when the plot takes center stage, which it does in action movies. And I’m happy to say that I never once wondered why our characters were doing something or how it affected the main threat. Furthermore, every one of the characters made a difference. The result was that I thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish. I can’t wait to watch it again. If you like action films, I think you’ll enjoy Ghost Protocol.

The Art of the Shaving

When I was on a mission in the Netherlands I was an idiot and did not take care of my face in the winter. I’d hop onto the bicycle with the temperature hovering around zero degrees (not counting the wind chill) and bike out with Fearless Companion to an area to meet with people or knock on doors. And I’d do it with hardly a thing covering my face and ears. As a result, I damaged my skin.

So now when I’m exposed to cold, my face flushes and stays that way for some time even when I’m in a warm house. I can’t wear cologne. And I’ve had a love/hate relationship with shaving. I can’t stand the prickle of a beard and so love to shave, but I hate the fact that when I shave, my face turns the color of a tomato for four to six hours. And this is when I use shaving cream specifically formulated for “sensitive skin.”

But then I walked into The Art of Shaving store in Fashion Place Mall and learned that those shaving creams designed for sensitive skins weren’t super gentle. They just numbed the skin so you didn’t feel the shave. The folks at The Art of Shaving suggested, of course, I use their product.

I bought a kit (I’m a sucker for good sales pitches even when I know I’m being suckered) which included: a badger hair brush (they say it is optional, but I love mine and wouldn’t do this without it), pre-shave oil, shaving cream, and after-shave balm. They had five types to choose from: unscented, lemon, sandalwood, ocean kelp, and lavender. I selected the lavender because it was formulated for sensitive skin. At first I was worried about being overpowered with the smell, but was pleasantly surprised to find the scent as light as a feather. I didn’t need a new razor; they said my Mach3 was just fine.

I came home with my bag expecting a huge dose of buyer’s remorse. Except after my first shave with their product, my face didn’t flush. Could this really be a product that worked? I wasn’t willing to make that conclusion at the time. But now, after about a month of shaving, I can honestly say that this is the best shave I’ve had in years. My face doesn’t flush. The after-shave balm does what a balm is supposed to do–soothe. There’s no alcohol burn. In fact, I use the after-shave balm on non-shave days. If your skin hates shaving, let me suggest you visit theartofshaving.com and order some product or go to one of their stores. I think you’ll also become a fan. 

Info for Choosing a Career

There are many things I wished I’d done differently when choosing a career. I wish I’d broadened my horizon on the horde of different careers possible. I wish I’d really looked at what the various careers earned on average. Luckily for those looking to select a new career today, Utah’s Department of Workforce Services compiles data on more than 700 occupational wages and shows you the average and median annual wage as well as the average for inexperienced folks in that occupation.

Not only does looking through the list help you see options you might not have considered, it also helps you get a realistic expectation for what you might earn in that profession. Now, the list, although large, doesn’t show every possible occupation (FBI agent, Marine) or every permutation of the occupations shown. For example, there’s one line for accountants and auditors, but there are tax accountants, fraud accountants, security accountants, auditing accountants, etc. Nevertheless, this is an excellent list to begin a search.

To get the list, go to this state website: http://jobs.utah.gov/jsp/wi/utalmis/default.do. Click on “Utah Occupational Wages.” That will open a page with a map of Utah. Click on the link on the right “Utah Occupational Wages” to get the Excel spreadsheet of all 700+ occupations listed.

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4 Responses to Sherlock Holmes, Mission Impossible, The Art of Shaving, Wages

  1. Mark says:

    You mentioned the Art of Shaving badger hair brush was “optional.” Did you use it? If you didn’t you really should try: not only will you use less cream (so its a better value) but it will hydrate the cream more effectively and gently clean the little bits of debris from around each hair so you will get an even better shave! I have a bunch of videos (at website link) that will help you build a good lather and shave more effectively.

  2. John Brown says:

    Mark, I did get the brush and use it.

  3. Sam says:

    John,
    Good review of “Game of Shadows” that I agreed with.
    Having developed a distrust of Guy Ritchie films, I was hesitant to even go see the movie.
    Friends talked me into it.
    Having read all the Sherlock Holmes stories at an early age, I believe it helped me follow the story better, understand his restraint at killing Moriarty and in general “suspend disbelief” at the cinema.
    I also have not seen the first movie.
    This made the movie work a little better for me than most but I did notice a lot of “how did we get here?” moments.
    The actress playing “Madam Simza,” Noomi Rapace, did so well that I went home and spent a few days watching the three Swedish “Girl who…” movies based on the books by Stieg Larsson.
    The digression above represents some of the experience while watching “Game of Shadows” – it goes off on tangents and the action takes viewers places with little explanation why.
    I believe I enjoyed it more than most because of my earlier time spent at 221b Baker St. with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero / anti-hero Holmes.
    Such knowledge should not be a pre-requisite for a movie, though.
    John, did you think the writers had this in mind when scripting the movie? That it would attract audiences based on Doyle’s and Downey’s fan base? Therefore, they could cut some explanation?
    Overall, it was still an entertaining movie with Downey mastering “The Art of the Close Shave.”
    -Sam

  4. John Brown says:

    Sam,

    I have no idea. But I would think they wouldn’t want to do that in this case. This is a blockbuster film, which means they want to make money, which means you want as wide an audience as possible. Why would you want to limit your audience to those who have read the stories? Everyone knows who Sherlock is, but not very many have read even one story. Now you can throw in lines and little things here and there that only devoted fans will catch. But the main story needs to be accessible and clear.