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VIFF 2018 Review: Mega Time Squad

Mega Time Squad

Anton Tennet plays a young man who uses multiplicity to form his own gang in Mega Time Squad.

Every year I do the Vancouver Film Festival, I make the effort to end my VIFF with the very last show. Once again, it was at 11:15pm at the Rio Theatre on Friday, October 12th. This year, it was the New Zealand thriller-comedy Mega Time Squad. It wasn’t the best film to end it with, but it wasn’t one of the worst.

John has a life that’s going nowhere. His parents are deceased. He lives in a garage in a town full of aged people. The only way he can make any kind of money is for working with a crime boss named Shelton who’s hired him with a lot of other dim bulbs.

Shelton gives John and another dim bulb named Gaz a mission. He wasn’t them to intercept a money drop at a Chinese antique store being dropped off by a rival Chinese gang led by a man named Wen. This turns out to be a bad idea as Gaz says he’s tired of being Shelton’s bitch. The heist is successful as they grab the money, but John gets a lot more. From the antique store, he grabs a Chinese bracelet. The store-owner tells him not to take the bracelet, claiming it has a mysticism that could be harmful. John ignores and takes it.

The crazy thing about the heist is that it has the Chinese gang and his own gang after John. John doesn’t know what to do until he discovers a time machine that can transport him back into time and avoid whatever trouble they’re facing. The machine also duplicates the user, so John uses it to get more than one John around. Eventually all the Johns meet up. The lead John declares his group of selves the ‘Mega Time Squad.’

The good thing is that John can accomplish what he misses the first time with his duplicate selves. The bad news is none are brighter than the original John. Plus with the charm bracelet, it could mean all the Johns would die off soon, including him. The various Johns are able to accomplish the heist, win a fight win over Wen, and fool people while the real John has won over the affection of Shelton’s younger sister Kelly. Eventually the actions of the various Johns catch up to the real one as Wen’s gang is after him and Shelton has a mission involving a bomb for him to do, which he eventually fails. Kelly learns of this and is turned off John.

However John has to do right. John is able to fix the curse so that all the other Johns are in a room. He reverses the curse of the bracelet and all the other Johns die with Kelly witnessing. Also Wen is able to get the bag of money John stole. Meanwhile an infuriated Shelton wants to see him. Shelton is about to shoot him for not doing his part right, but John confronts him and tells him he gives everyone the risky business while Shelton sits back and calls orders. Shelton tries to shoot john, but the bullet is shot in the reverse direction. RIP Shelton! All the gang members are free and John is free to love Kelly. As for Wen and the bag of money, that’s for you to see.

Here we go again where we see a New Zealand film that tries to be a thriller-comedy. I’ve seen it before many times at the VIFF with Housebound and Deathgasm. Housebound was the best-done of the three I’ve seen. Deathgasm was more focused on the humor and the gore than it was on the story, but still delivered on entertainment. Mega Time Squad gave me the feeling like I was watching the same thing over again. Also it didn’t compare to the other two as a story or in humor. There were a lot of times in which I felt the story was dumb or lacking in thrills. There was a lot missing.

One thing I will not do is declare this movie to be a disappointment. This film wasn’t the disappointment Housewife was. The acting was still good, if not great. The story was consistent and made sense. Even the foolishness or ridiculousness of the story or the idiocy of the characters didn’t come across as stupid or confusing. I will admit that this is the type of film that could simply be a made-for-TV film on a sci-fi network. However the film does deliver on a consistent story line that is fun, entertaining and humorous. It may be boring or lackluster in comparison, but it still entertains and will make you laugh.

I wouldn’t say this is an accomplishment for writer/director Tim Van Dammen, who ironically was an actor in Deathgasm. However I will say that it delivers in entertainment. Sure, some of it was idiotic, but it was able to pull itself together at the end and even deliver a humorous ending. Anton Tennet was funny as the loser-turned-winner John. Even some of his acting looked idiotic, but it was on for the most part. Hetty Gaskell-Hahn was the scene-stealer as Shayna. She was solid in her character and she helped make the film too. Yoson An was also good as a humorous villain who meets a surprise at the end.

Mega Time Squad offers nothing new for the thriller genre. I’ve seen it done before and done better. Nevertheless it will entertain you and get you laughing. It is a welcome relief after watching a lot of heavy, intense fare at the VIFF. And a good way to end the VIFF, if not end it with a bang.

And there you go! That sums it up for all the films I saw at the Vancouver Film Festival. I know it took longer than I should, but I saw a lot of movies and had little time to write. But I’m finally done now. My review of the Fest will be coming very shortly within a day or two.

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VIFF 2017 Shorts Segment: New Skins And Old Ceremonies

CinemaOne thing of the VIFF I consider to be a treat is whenever I attend a shorts segment. The segment I saw entitled New Skins And Old Ceremonies was a selection of seven shorts from Canadian directors. They were all unique in their own way.

Lost Paradise Lost: dir. Yan Groulx- Two people named Julie and Victor are out of love and find themselves boarding a bus full of strangers to anywhere. Where it takes them is a bizarre place for those out of love and rivals and threats to deal with. An eccentric short nonetheless, but it captures the feel well and makes sense in the end.

Flood: dir. Amanda Strong- It’s an animated short about an indigenous person and how the Canadian system did what it could to make them and their people feel inferior. It’s a story worth telling. The mix of stop-motion for modern images and traditional indigenous art adds to the story. The film ends with a renewed sense of pride.

Cherry Cola: dir. Joseph Amenta- Two drag queens are out on a night to dress up, have fun, and get revenge on an ex-boyfriend. It seems confusing at first, despite being intriguing to watch. You first think it’s a comedy, but the story ends on a dark note. It exposes an overlooked heartache some transvestites have.

The Good Fight: dir. Mintie Pardoe- A young woman goes into a sex toy shop to buy a toy. This woman is a nun about to be ordained. She struggles with her sworn commitment to celibacy, but the secret does get exposed. And with a surprising ending. Directed by a recent UBC graduate, the story is basically for the sake of shock value as it appears no actually research on the Catholic Church and vocations were done. Basically that’s all it is: entertainment for hedonists.

Sea Monster: dirs. Daniel Rocque and Kassandra Tomczyk- Tomczyk co-wrote, co-directed and stars in this short. Charley and Aria are a couple cooped up in a hotel madly in love, but both are coping with trauma. Aria dreams of a squid. Then the two make out on night in the fashion of a squid, followed by a bizarre aftermath. This is a film that’s nothing short of experimental. This film is good at getting creative in its time frame and setting.

Thug: dir. Daniel Boos- We first see how three friends– Eman, Simon and Josh– are shooting a low-budget gangsta film. Director Josh recommends to Eman that he creates a hold-up scene on Simon unexpectedly to make the film more ‘real.’ Eman agrees, despite the risk to their friendship. It does a lot more; it arouses suspicion from the local police. Later, Eman and Simon talk about roles they wish they could play before Eman auditions for a role as a gangster thug. This short film sends a message about how minorities in acting get the short end of the stick in terms of the roles they are offered and are often limited to racial stereotypes.

Let Your Heart Be Light: dirs. Deragh Campbell and Sophy Romvari- Both Deragh and Sophy write, direct and act in opposite names in this short. Sophy is confined to spend Christmas alone after a break-up. Deragh pays a visit and makes her Christmas. The film is slow and lacking in energy, but it does a good job of making use of its time and keeping with the Christmas vibe.

In summary, all seven were different in their own way it terms of both style and quality. There were a couple that were either inconsistent in story or lacking in energy. There were a couple that were eccentric, but the eccentricities worked for the film. There were also some films that made you think. The ones that made me think were my favorites as the messages came across very well and very effectively.

New Skins And Old Ceremonies makes for a unique array of seven shorts by Canadian directors. Some were good, some were bad, but all were an opportunity for the directors to make names for themselves.

VIFF 2014 Review: New Boobs

New Boobs is a documentary by Dutch film director Sacha Polak pursuing a revolutionary breast operation that isn't simply cosmetic. It's to prolong her life.

New Boobs is a documentary by Dutch film director Sacha Polak pursuing a unique breast operation that isn’t simply cosmetic. It’s to prolong her life.

At first when you hear the title New Boobs, you’ll think it’s about trying to conform to an idealized body types. However you shouldn’t misjudge it as such. It’s a lot more than that.

This is an autobiographical documentary by Dutch film maker Sacha Polak. Not even 30, Sacha has established herself as a rising director in the Netherlands with numerous shorts and films to her credit including one film, Hemel, which won her a FIPRESCI Prize at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival. However not even 30, she’s also hindered by a health problem of her own. Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 29 just months after Sacha was born. Sacha goes for gene testing if she possesses the BRCA1 gene. The gene poses as a huge threat to contracting breast cancer before the age of 40 and increases the threat of ovarian cancer by 40-60%. She gets the doctor’s results. It’s a positive.

There are a lot of things running through Sacha’s mind upon hearing the news. First is how long she’ll live. Second is whether she’ll be able to have a child with her boyfriend before she gets her ovaries removed: something she wants to do before she turns 35. Third is about her next production. However the one that stands out is what to have done with her breasts. Removal of both? Surgery with implants? An operation will greatly improve her odds of avoiding breast cancer. She goes to one plastic surgeon and learns of the implants that would be used in their operation. However she soon hears of a plastic surgeon in Ghent, Belgium who performs a unique breast operation that would involve removing the breast tissue and filling it with body fat. That operation becomes Sacha’s focus.

Things are frustrating as the surgeon moves her consulting from November to March. Finally she does have the consultation and she learns of the surgery and what it entails. She agrees to it. During the waiting time she tries to conduct her life as usual doing filmwork and keeping the relationship with her boyfriend intact. She eventually does have the first operation. She shows the outcome and talks over time how she’s felt about it and how others including her boyfriend have felt about it. She then has her second operation and is happy with the end result. The film ends with her talking about her thoughts on the future, about her next film, about having a child in time. However she’s happy that she has solved one problem in the meantime.

The film wasn’t strictly about a cosmetic operation. It was also about a woman fearing for her health and hoping that this operation that would prolong her life will come out well in the end. It’s also about the mother she never knew. Frequently the film shows images of her mother and even the book her mother wrote to Sacha before she died. It’s also about family relations such as the support she receives from her boyfriend that isn’t immune to friction. Even the fears from both her father and her stepmother are showcased. The father himself is especially concerned as his wife just fell ill, entered the hospital and died. It still upsets him to this day and it especially bears down on him sensing that it could happen to Sacha. This documentary is as much about the human factor as it is about the medical factor.

The theme about being born with a bad gene is very present in the movie. This was definitely a theme that would stick in a lot of audient’s heads especially after they had just seen a documentary short of a close friend of Jason Ritter and Bryce Dallas Howard learn of her positive diagnosis for a Huntington’s gene. After seeing that short before, we’re reminded of the hard luck and the physical threats people that have genes that make them prone to certain illnesses face.

This documentary is not meant for the big screen. This is mostly filmed with minor technical cameras and even Skype footage. This is a documentary that’s more meant for broadcast on a television channel like BC’s Knowledge network.

New Boobs is an intriguing documentary that is more than just about an operation. It’s about dealing with illness-prone genes and even family relations surrounding it. A reminder that the person doesn’t fight this alone.

NOTE: For those interested in Sacha’s next film, she had just finished filming Zurich and is due for release in the Netherlands in February 2015.

Royal City No Longer Royal Slum

Been to New Westminster lately? If you haven’t been there, what images first comes to mind? Are they positive or negative? If they’re negative, you’d be in for a surprise with the changes that have happened in the city. Big changes.

New Westminster was once the pride of British Columbia. It was proclaimed by Lieutenant Governor Richard Moody in 1859 to be the official capital of the Colony of British Columbia. It was official recognized as a city in 1861, exactly 25 years before Vancouver was established as a city. A lot of history is in that town which currently has a population of over 65,000.

It was seen as a great pathway with being located by the Fraser River. Excellent for transportation of goods through the waters and great links by rail service. It’s area rich in trees was especially beneficial for the logging industry and for the pulp and paper industry. Many pulp and paper mills were build around New Westminster and the Fraser River. Its railway system would also be built around the various mills.

As many of you have noticed in your own cities, the older buildings would face a neglect for some time. Much during the 60’s and 70’s. New Westminster faced a neglect during the 80’s and 90’s. A lot of the times the areas would be some of the sleazier areas of town often the scene of drug deals or crime. Even the older buildings would start to look shabby over time. The area around New Westminster Skytrain station used to be a popular hangout for young thugs. Some former residents of New West may remember that.

One thing many people will notice is the many improvements made in New Westminster over the last ten years.  Columbia Street has definitely made big improvements in the last ten years. Before 1964, Columbia St. used to have many department stores and was the downtown attraction of New Westminster. The area consisting of the major stores around Columbia St. which also linked with South Burnaby and North Surrey was known as the Golden Mile. That changed after 1964 when the Highway #1 freeway was completed and allowed people to travel to Vancouver faster. Many of the department stores along Columbia St. closed up and moved themselves to the Uptown area. The nearby landmarks like Douglas College, the Courts and the City Hall were the places still keeping it active mostly.

Things really improved since Wayne Wright became mayor of New Westminster in 1999. Columbia St. has recently gone under a ‘facelift’ in the last ten years. One of the things Columbia St. is noted for is their array of wedding and bridal shops. It has become a major area for wedding planning and fashion. Housing along Columbia St. has also sprouted out with new developments happening. Even older buildings were renovated or given new life for attracting new and current businesses. There’s even an annual automobile festival in July, the ‘Key West Show & Shine’, that attracts people to the street.

The Plaza 88 Shopping Mall (shown here) and condo development has helped to give new life to the New Westminster Skytrain Station and Columbia St.

The Plaza 88 Shopping Mall (shown here) and condo development has helped to give new life to the New Westminster Skytrain Station and Columbia St.

The biggest boost on Columbia St. was the Plaza 88 along the New Westminster Skytrain station. A multi-storied condo was built there five years ago with the anticipation of an adjacent outdoor shopping mall along the Skytrain levels. Back in winter 2011, the New Westminster Skytrain station opened Plaza 88 and has since become a common shopping place with a Safeway and a Shoppers Drug Mart. A movie theatre opened there last year as well as various other stores and medical businesses and new businesses continue to come in. Ten to even five years ago, the area was very run down full of old crumbly buildings and was a common hangout for people into drugs or causing trouble. Now the place makes for a for comfortable setting for people and even includes a play area for children.

Another bustling area is the New Westminster Quay market alongside the Fraser River. The Quay market had a slow period roughly six years ago as businesses left many vacancies behind. A major renovation of the market area from July 2007 until its reopening in September 2010 has succeeded in attracting new businesses in especially with having an ‘anchor store’ with Donald’s Market.

The addition of new buildings and new stores like Thrifty Foods has helped give new life to the Brewery District since the brewery closed in 2004.

The addition of new buildings and new stores like Thrifty Foods has helped give new life to the Brewery District since the brewery closed in 2004.

Another redeveloped in New Westminster as of recent is the Brewery District. The Brewery District used to be the pride of the town of Sapperton after the Sapperton Brewery was opened in 1879. The brewery was owned by many brewing companies with Labatt’s Brewing Company being its last one in 1958. The brewery was closed in 2004 after Labatt’s decided to withdraw its business. The area that used to be part of the brewery has been redeveloped in the last few years. The area was recently revived with the opening of a Thrifty Foods and a Toronto Dominion bank. A Brown’s Social House restaurant and a Shopper’s Drug Mart were also opened months ago. Nearby is the office for the Greater Vancouver Transit Police and Translink with office room for more businesses. There’s already a condo area in existence to the surrounding area and more homes are planned in the years to come. Even with the surprising news in the past two months of Thrifty Foods being sold by its umbrella company Sobey’s, the area still shows potential for consumer business to increase over time.

It isn’t just new buildings and businesses that New Westminster is proud to show off. Recently it has also developed a sense of pride for its past. Back in 2009, the Royal City celebrated 150 years. The Irving House on Royal St., now a museum, is its most classic building and open to the public and even has a Victorian style Christmas. The New Westminster Heritage Centre runs guidelines for running and developing its classic homes and buildings. This allows for buildings like the BC Penitentiary to be converted into an office or even the CPR station on Columbia St. to be converted into a Keg Restaurant for some time. There are also tours of heritage homes which still keep their own facades and designs despite renovations and modernizations for current occupancy. The New Westminster Mayday festival started in 1870 and still continues today as a tradition with participating children still wearing the traditional uniform and dancing around the maypole.

The Anvil Centre, slated to open later this year, is slated to be the city's new civic centre.

The Anvil Centre situated across Plaza 88, slated to open later this year, is to be the city’s new civic centre.

It’s not only what has been completed in the last five years or past buildings and traditions revamped that has caught a lot of buzz for New Westminster but also what’s planned for the future. Being constructed nearby Plaza 88 will be the brand new New Westminster Civic Centre or the Anvil Centre as it’s commonly called now. That area too was once part of an area that had a lot of old buildings that were also looking run down and also a common spot for homeless people and drug addicts to loiter around. The centre is designed in the shape of an anvil commemorating the Anvil fired off annually during the Battery Salute of the annual Hyack Festival. The centre which is expected to open next year promises a 350-seat theatre, art studios, multi-purpose rooms for arts and performing arts development, a conference space with banquet seating for up to 500, a new location for Tourist New Westminster on ground level, and a new home for both the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum of New Westminster.

There was one negative note. Back in October there was a fire that burned down the E.L. Lewis Building, one of Columbia St.’s older buildings still put to good use. The fire devastated the building and surrounding area leaving 30 businesses displaced. It was an unfortunate happening. This could however lead to promise of a new development in terms of businesses or housing.

New Westminster has developed a new sense over the years. It’s a city with a proud and celebrated past with a highly ambitious future. Despite the negative impact in the past 20 to 30 years, the city has made big improvements and promises more in the future. The Royal City is becoming Royal again.

For more information about New Westminster, click the link to the official website.

Etan Patz Update: First Arrest Made

Etan Patz went missing exactly 33 years ago to this day.

Some of you may remember I did an article on Etan Patz about a month ago. It was as much a focus on how Etan’s abduction sure changed the meaning of childhood as it was about the failed attempt of finding the body. Who would have thought that an arrest would be made within a month? This could lead to the closure of the most famous missing child case in US history.

For the record, there have been no previous arrests in Etan Patz’s disappearance. Jose Ramos has always been considered the prime suspect and was even slapped a wrongful death lawsuit against Stan and Julie Patz, but was never charged criminally. The common reason was because there was no body to charge him. Last month’s investigation by the NYPD in excavating an apartment’s basement didn’t lead to the arrest of Othniel Miller because nothing was found.

Pedro Hernandez was arrested yesterday and charged with second-degree murder.

On May 24, 2012, an arrest was finally made in the Etan Patz case. His name is Pedro Hernandez. His confession comes as he is currently going through cancer. He’s 51 and a resident of Maple Shade, NJ but he was 18 at the time of Etan’s disappearance and worked a bodega just blocks from the Patz’s apartment. Hernandez has provided a written signed confession to the police that he lured the boy into the store with candy, strangling him, and putting the body in a box. He also claimed he put the box with the trash where it was later taken away. The NYPD have charged Hernandez with second-degree murder in the ‘online booking process.’ Hernandez is now in Bellevue Hospital where is under suicide watch.

One would ask why would this take a long time to happen? It’s been known that Hernandez is a schizophrenic with a long history of both audio and visual hallucinations. A brother-in-law described him as having a short fuse and ‘would get angry at nothing.’ His wife Rosemary even took out a restraining order against him once but allowed him to move back in recently. The big shocker is some of the clues leading to this. Family members have heard confessions from Hernandez as far back as 1981 that he ‘done a bad thing and killed a boy in New York City.’ It was even revealed that his name was in the original police file back in 1979. Back then, some of his co-workers were questioned but he wasn’t. Even when he did admit to police about killing Etan in the past, it was treated as suspicion as a hoax-call as there were so many at the time. It wasn’t until the heightened activity of last month that prompted a tip off leading to Hernandez finally being arrested.

This also brings into question the allegations of the other two accused suspects Jose Ramos and Othniel Miller. Ramos’ accusations could become touchy since the Patz parents won a wrongful death lawsuit against him in 2004. There were a lot of strong hints linking him to be the prime suspect like being the boyfriend of his babysitter at the time and even confessing in prison during an unrelated pedophilia case of ‘activity’ with him. Now with Hernandez being arrested, does that clear Ramos of Etan’s wrongful death? Future events and new leads should lead to the truth coming out once and for all about Etan’s disappearance.

It seems like a humorless irony that I should publish this update on what is National Missing Childrens Day and 33 years to the day Etan went missing. Nevertheless this is a ray of hope in getting the case solved and possibly the answers to a family of what happened to their Etan.

WORKS CITED:

Webster, Richard. “Pedro Hernandez Charged With The Murder of Etan Patz” San Francisco Examiner 24 May 2012. <http://www.examiner.com/article/pedro-hernandez-charged-with-the-murder-of-etan-patz>

Hughes, Mark. “Etan Patz killing: Pedro Hernandez ‘had a long history of hallucinations’” The Daily Telegraph 26 May 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9291650/Etan-Patz-killing-Pedro-Hernandez-had-a-long-history-of-hallucinations.html>

Little Boy Lost: Why Etan Patz Still Matters Today

Etan Patz, a 6 1/2 year-old NYC boy, left his apartment one morning in 1979 and was never seen again.

The news broke Thursday the 19th. New York police started searching the basement of an apartment that could have the buried body of Etan Patz: a 6 ½ year-old boy missing since 1979. The building was located on Prince St, the same street as the Patz family’s apartment. People who never knew the story behind this asked “Who is Etan Patz?” Those of us who have been around since it all happened either know the story all too well or felt the effects of it over time.

Friday May 25, 1979 started like any other day in the United States. By day’s end, there would be two events that would change things forever: the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 just outside of Chicago and the abduction of New York City child Etan Patz. The plane crash would be the deadliest air disaster in US history (outside the 9/11 attacks) for claiming 273 lives and would lead to changes in airline maintenance and would be the beginning of the end of the DC-10 aircraft. The abduction of Etan Patz would soon pave the way for stronger measures and procedures for dealing with missing children and would lead to many of the tougher laws and better, more immediate procedures that exist today.

Before Etan Patz, child abductions were not taken that seriously. Most were either thought of as runaways or kids that would eventually find their way home. Kidnapped children were originally thought of as only happening to children of rich parents where the abductor would demand ransom money for the child’s release. Even before Etan’s disappearance, an ugly truth of child abductions that was already happening was about to unravel. It all started that Friday morning. Etan Kalil Patz was a six-and-a-half year-old boy living in lower Manhattan, the middle child of Stanley and Julie Patz. Etan had always walked with his mother to the school bus stop but for months, he was begging to go alone because all of his friends were. He was given that landmark day that Friday. He woke up, got dressed, had breakfast, waved goodbye to his mother and then walk down the Prince St. apartment stairs to the bus stop two blocks away, alone for the first time. He was never seen again.

Immediately upon news of his disappearance, the police and media were in a rush. Stories abounded. His face was even shown on the nightly news. Stanley and Julie Patz soon became media figures. Etan’s story would become the hottest child kidnapping story since the Lindbergh Baby. Never before was the press and the police so immediate over a child kidnapping. Nevertheless stories would arise how some child kidnappings in the years before Etan, and some in the years after Etan, were not so lucky to receive prompt action from authorities or the press. The lack of resources and coordination between law enforcement and other government agencies left many parents of missing children frustrated. Even Julie Patz made mention in an interview two years after Etan’s disappearance that there were many children’s’ bodies in morgues being left unidentified.

Soon more news about child abductions came to the surface. There was the 1981 abduction of Florida six year-old Adam Walsh who’s severed head was found two weeks later. There were Oklahoma 13 year-olds Charlotte Kinsey and Cinda Pallett assigned to do a carnival job overnight in 1981 and never heard from. There was 12 year-old Iowa boy John Gosch who left home for his paper route in 1982 and was never seen again. Further names came about: 12 year-old Ann Gotlib from Kentucky, 14 year-old Elizabeth Ann Miller from Colorado, 16 year-old Maurice Jefferson from Florida, 9 year-old Taj Narbonne from Massachusetts, the list is endless. Better actions had to be done.

The subject of missing children soon became unavoidable. Each state had their own missing child cases to deal with. It even hit internationally in Canada and other countries. Over time, the subject of missing children would soon be a hot topic and better laws were enacted both in states and nationwide. In 1983, May 25th–the date of Etan’s disappearance–would be declared National Missing Children’s Day. The faces and descriptions of missing children would soon appear on milk cartons. Etan was the first. The FBI and various state police departments passed tougher laws and adopted better faster actions towards dealing with missing children. The National Center for Missing And Exploited Children was formed by the American Congress in 1984. Posters of missing children appeared at bus stations, border crossings and police stations. Local police would visit schools and teach children of the danger of strangers. Some would even give fingerprinting. Child identification programs that included fingerprinting and child identification files started up nationwide. Finally a problem that had been long ignored got its long overdue improvements and changes in procedures.

One thing about is his disappearance is that it sure has changed childhood and sure has changed parenting. With it came the loss of the essence of childhood. Parents were confronted with the fact they could no longer afford to give their children the carefree childhood they felt they deserved. They felt the need to hold on to their children tighter. Many newspaper writers have written editorials about how Etan Patz’s abduction changed everything. Before his abduction, monsters were seen by children as something of their imagination. Since the Patz abduction, today’s children know monsters exist in real life. Parenting has also changed. It makes it a lot harder for a parent to let go of their child, knowing that so many children go missing. You can guarantee that ever since Etan went missing, a child will have to wait longer than 6 ½ to walk alone to the school bus. A dark truth could no longer be avoided right there and then and remains unignorable today, especially with pedophiles now able to use the internet to lure kids.

PRIME SUSPECT: Jose Ramos

You can guarantee that in the years since Etan’s abduction, missing children has been taken seriously and continues to be taken seriously today Authorities are quick to act whenever a child goes missing. Awareness is immediate. Punishments are severe for the abductors. On the downside, it became apparent in the 90’s that potential abductors knew of the stricter measures and tougher precautions that were made against them. That caused many to find new and sneakier ways to abduct children, like the 1993 abduction of 13 year-old Polly Klaas at knifepoint in her own home and 9 year-old Amber Hagerman being yanked off her bike and immediately taken into a car. Those abductions and the finding of their bodies would lead to the creation of the Polly Klaas Foundation, Marc Klaas to lobby for tougher sentences for convicted felons, and the institution of the Amber Alert which alerts people through buses and on radio stations about sudden missing cases. There’s even a recent statistic out that today 99% of abducted children are found alive. Despite all these improvements and changes, it’s all too much too late for many missing children of years and even decades past, like Etan Patz.

Etan Patz was never found dead or alive. The case has never been closed, although there is a prime suspect. His name is Jose Antonio Ramos. In the late 1980’s, he started serving a 20-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania for sexually abusing a boy. In 1991 it was alerted to Stuart GraBois–Assistant United States Attorney who received the Patz case in 1985–from jailhouse informants that Ramos admitted involvement in the disappearance of Etan. Ramos was the boyfriend of Etan’s babysitter at the time of Etan’s disappearance. The Patz family had known for years that he may be involved but it wasn’t until then they were able to get any legal action. Further confessions led the Patz family to confront the fact in 1999 that Etan was dead. In 2001, Stanley and Julie Patz had Etan legally declared dead. In 2004, they won a wrongful death suit against Ramos for which they were to be awarded $2 million. One thing that could not be done is place a murder charge on Ramos. The District Attorney at the time, Robert Morgenthau, said a criminal indictment could not be sought because the body of Etan has never been found. Ramos is scheduled to be released from prison in November 2012. The Patzes fear he will continue to be a threat to children until he is unable to walk. Ever since he learned of Ramos’ confessions, Stan Patz sends Ramos a copy of Etan’s missing poster on Etan’s birthday and the anniversary of his abduction. On the backs, Stan has typed the question: “What have you done to my little boy?”

Potential Second Suspect: Othniel Miller

Despite the strong evidence against Ramos and the subsequent legal actions, the case continues to be unclosed. The fact that no body has been found has prevented a lot of justice from being done and the decades-old mystery from being solved. In May 25, 2010, the Etan Patz case was reopened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Since then, a second suspect has come to the attention: Othniel Miller. At the time of the Patz disappearance, Miller was a handyman who owned a workshop in a building near the apartment the Patzes resided in. His workshop doubled as a play room for small children. Recent revelations have come to light in recent years: one is from his ex-wife that he raped her 10 year-old niece; another is the fact that a fresh concrete floor was poured in his workshop the year after Etan’s Disappearance; another is Jose Ramos did odd jobs for Miller in the past.

Miller is now 75 and has suffered many strokes. He was very cooperative in talking with FBI agents for the past 30 years but denies any involvement with the Patz case. Then a cadaver dog was allowed to sniff in the basement and alerted a clue. There was the potential that Etan could be buried underneath the floor of concrete. Nevertheless cadaver dogs are known to be erroneous and can easily be distracted if they sniff out something as simple as a dinner. Despite the slim odds, Stanley Patz was content with the search as he believed something is better than nothing. The search began on Thursday the 19th. Concrete was excavated, cut, crushed and even analyzed for any possible forensic detail. There was a stain on the wall that came to the alert as a possible bloodstain. However the search for Etan in that apartment concluded on Sunday. There was not enough evidence. That small stain wouldn’t be enough to prove anything according to the NYPD because it’s quite possible it wasn’t a bloodstain at all. There was no body found underneath the basement floor. Even that claim against Miller is under question as his stepson claims he never raped his 10 year-old niece and would never hurt a child. For the record, Miller was never charged for it. Nevertheless the Etan Patz case remains opened. A mystery like this deserves to be solved.

Whether Etan Patz will ever be found or whether case will ever be closed or not is still a big question. There may be new evidence and new investigations anytime in the future. Nevertheless the recent search reminded the public of the importance of this case. It was the missing child case that led to the major changes and tougher procedures in policing and justice that exist today. It was also the case that made parents and children wake up to the potential dangers. It all started that Friday morning in Manhattan 33 years ago. Hard to believe the child whose case started it all has never been found.

UPDATE: For May 25th update, Click Here.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Disappearance Of Etan Patz. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Etan_Patz>

“Etan Patz: Search Ending With No Evidence Of 6 Year-Old Boy.” ABC News.go.com. 2012. ABC News. 23 April 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/US/etan-patz-search-ending-evidence-year-boy/story?id=16192599

For Further Reading:

Writer’s Editorial s from Yahoo:

http://news.yahoo.com/etan-patz-changed-generation-213000800.html

http://news.yahoo.com/nyc-boy-vanished-era-anxiety-born-181742158.html

Brief Blog: Super Bowl Prediction

I’ll admit I’m not an expert at American Football, but the Super Bowl XLVI is coming up. Sunday the 5th to be exact. The stage is in Indianapolis. The commercials costed the companies $3.5 million each time they will air them. The halftime show will be Madonna but the game is strictly an East Coast affair with the New England Patriots facing the New York Giants. Which team will take home the trophy? Let’s break them down:

NEW YORK GIANTS

Of all of the six NFC teams to qualify for the playoffs, the Giants had the weakest record and was the only qualifying team not to win at least ten games: nine wins and seven losses to be exact. Nevertheless each playoff game they’ve played, they’ve gotten stronger. First was winning their wildcard game against the Atlanta Falcons 24-2, then came their Divisional Playoff win against the Green Bay Packers 37-20, and then their overtime win of the NFC Championship against the 49ers 20-17. Will their rapid improvement reach its peak on Sunday or will the Super Bowl be where their luck finally runs out?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

While the Giants had the worst regular season results of the NFC’s playoff qualifiers, the Patriots had the best of the AFC’s with thirteen wins and only three losses. They didn’t need to play a wildcard match and won their Divisional match against Denver easily 45-10. Their AFC Championship victory against the Baltimore Ravens was tighter: 23-20. So far they have predominantly been the strongest team overall this year. However there was one important regular season statistic: of the Patriots’ three losses, one was against the Giants 24-20. That would be the last game the Patriots would lose all season. Will they get revenge at the Super Bowl or will they succumb again?

MY PICK: Now for my prediction. I know I’ve based a lot of opinion here on statistics. One thing I learned from Moneyball is that sabermetrics aren’t always right in the end. For the game however, I strongly feel the Patriots will win. It will be a tight game during the first three quarters with the lead alternating at least three times but the Patriots will grab tight hold in the fourth and go on to win it. As for the score, I won’t hazard a guess on that. I’ll just stick to predicting the winner.

Anyways go out and buy your munchies this weekend. Super Bowl XLVI promises to be exciting: both the game and surrounding events. So may the best team win on Sunday.

9/11 Remembered

September 11, 2001: A day that will live on forever. A lot has changed in the ten years since. Air security is way tighter. Arabic names and words no one could pronounce previously have since become part of our everyday vocabulary. Entering the United States is more regulated. Being Arab American has not been a friendly experience for many. We have a no-fly list and a terrorism alert of color grades. We have people claiming conspiracy theories. We have had two wars declared since which has further divided political sides. We’ve caught many to do with the terrorism but have more to go.

Around this time, you will read many articles and views surrounding the events, political climates and beliefs of the writers. You will hear many stories from those involved to those who lost loved ones to those in political power. As for me, I won’t be focusing on such. Instead I will focus on the day as I remember it.

Tuesday, September 11th 2001 started off like any other day for me. I wasn’t yet 30 and had recently moved to Vancouver months earlier and living in a character house with at least six other residents at the time. I was off to work and listening to a radio show talking about a bizarre contest where people do crazy stunts for the sake of an entry. Things wouldn’t be the same after that. In the morning while I was on a break from my first job, I saw one of my co-workers laughing. When I saw him, he said a plane hit the World Trade Center. Some of you may think it was insensitive but looking back, I think he was laughing at the bizarreness of the event. When I first heard the news from him, I first thought it was probably a small passenger plane and it hit one of the Twin Towers by accident. That afternoon I was working at my second job for a government business. I heard one of my supervisors talking about what happened and saying that it could have happened to a building like ours. Hearing that, I started to think that this may not be an accident after all, but how?

Later on in the day as I was returning home, I saw news stories and images of the events that happened. There was even a second newspapers issued that day about the events. I saw one of the towers hit by an airplane was burning while another airplane hit the other tower. When I first saw it, I was in disbelief. I thought it was something that could only happen in the movies. Then hearing of other crashes like the plane that hit the Pentagon and one that crashed in a failed attempt to hit Camp David. Then hearing how all Worldwide commercial air ground to a halt. Then seeing images of people running and screaming for their lives as the first of the Twin Towers crashed down. The events were just completely unreal in my mind. Until then, I always thought hijacking a plane was always about the terrorist using plane passengers hostages for the sake of making demands. Until then, I’ve only heard of airplanes used as weapons during the Kamikaze attacks of World War II. I never thought that terrorist could use passenger planes for the sake of a suicide mission. The attacks on the Twin Towers also immediately brought back a memory of how back in 1993, the World Trade Centre was bombed but there were only five fatalities at the time. I also remember that the mastermind was a Muslim cleric. Remembering that got me thinking that the attackers had the failed attempt from 1993 in mind to bring the towers down for sure that time.

Then back at my home, I met with the other residents in my character house and we were all shocked. One who was visiting from the Netherlands even videotaped the speech from President Bush. The day was just completely surreal. All networks were focused on all the events that happened. There was no changing the other channel. It would continue to be that way for at least two weeks straight.

Days later, I would hear stories of those who died that day. There was even a memorial service broadcast from radio at my workplace that consisted of five minutes of silence. I also heard from those who lost loved ones. Even later on I heard even further details of the activities. Hearing about how some of the terrorists went to flying school to carry out those activities completely surprised me. Hearing how Al-Qaeda had a worldwide network with followers even in Canada shocked me. Hearing of these countries having weapons given to them by the United Stated puzzled me even further. Hearing the various reactions around the world also caught my eye. Most of the world, including many Arab countries, expressed their condolences to the events. There were some, like Palestinians, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, who considered that day a day of celebration. Then there were the speeches of Osama bin Laden. Already infamous for his years of bomb attacks on American embassies in other countries, he led the taunts. Shockingly he promised a ‘great day of terror’ weeks earlier.

Despite all the nastiness, there were also a lot of positives. The United States however refused to let it defeat them and a renewed sense of patriotism happened. New York City also developed its own pride in itself. People who used to diss the police and firemen and politicians almost immediately rallied behind them. Families would help out stranded air passengers during that time. Nations would come to the support of the United States and some other nations even lost citizens of their own.

Ten years have passed. Yeah, you could say a lot has changed. Even reflecting back on the happenings of that tragic day still boggles my mind. Commercial planes used as weapons for a suicide mission. Four flights hijacked with the intent to destroy four places. Thousands dead. I was never involved with it nor did I personally know anyone who died that day but even ten years ago, it does seem like yesterday.

Anyways those are my thoughts on 9/11. I just wanted to reflect on what I remember from that day. I didn’t want to get into any political speech or political thought. If you want any political thought from me, read my Osama bin Laden is Dead article. Since I wrote it, Al-Qaeda has elected a new leader. Whether he has the same sophistication as Osama or not is something only time will tell. I just hope there’s no massive loss of life in the process. There you go. That’s the most political I will get in this article.

I hope you liked what I had to say because that’s what I remember. I was never an actual part of the events. I never knew anyone lost that day. Nevertheless I still remember the constant broadcast of the day’s events and the atmosphere surrounding it. You can’t deny how much it’s changed the world and changed people. I end my article saying: God Bless the souls of those lost that day and may God continue to be with the families.