Three Billboards

Three Billboards

Perhaps Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is the ultimate signposting movie ever made. It certainly doesn’t do much to alter any preconceptions about certain segments of American society, however it is a work a fiction, albeit with an alarming gritty realism. However, despite the gasps of shock within the audience at some utterly backwards attitudes. The most striking aspect about this film for me was the lack of any action.

In the film various characters are assaulted, verbally and physically, yet witnesses basically remain as bystanders, doing absolutely nothing, apart perhaps, from a disapproving “tut”. I comfort myself that this is fictional, it’s a movie, people don’t’ stand and gawp, doing nothing… do they? I mean I know we are all able to witness terrible scenes from around the world in a voyeuristic sense, but we aren’t right there on the spot, we are unable to immediately intervene… but if that happened within our own home, street or park, we would intervene right? To me, the lack of engagement or outrage was worse to witness than the racism or violence itself.

Engage with Other

It is surely our involvement and engagement, that provide us with a sense of our humanity. This was demonstrated in a CCTV clip that I saw this week of a person saving the life of a man about to throw himself in front of a train. Many do care and do get involved, but some seem to be happy to be mere bystanders in life. Maybe this is what the Director intended, given the politics of the day, perhaps this is a commentary on those that make claims about a President and turn a blind eye, frequently, to the continuous blatant hypocrisy. The movie certainly has the title and whiff of a “based on true events” tale. In short, I guess they could be, which is deeply worrying. Indeed, the very premise of the story is around the lack of action by the local police.

This is Hollywood, not Missouri… right?

As for the film itself, there are two very strong performances. The lead character Mildred (Frances McDormand 60) gives a very “real” depth to the characterisation and Sam Rockwell (49) nails his performance of Dixon, the cop you hope to never meet. There are some notable choices for the cast, Abbie Cornish (35) plays the wife of Police Chief Willoughby, (Woody Harrelson 56) she was 3 when he started his role in the bar sitcom “Cheers”. The white middle-aged men are hopefully too clichéd with Mildred’s former husband (wife/probably anyone-beating) Charlie, (John Hawkes 58) now with Penelope, (Samara Weaving 25) a woman considerably younger and more the age of their murdered daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton 20). Perhaps this too is deliberate characterisation of men unable to cope with ageing.

One of the talking points of the movie will likely be the actions of the Police Chief Willoughby, who takes a view on terminal illness and sets his mind to dealing with loose ends. His words to Dixon and the subsequent events seem unlikely and have caused controversy in various circles. However plausible, clearly each character is responding differently to stress, turning to their known and learned patterns from some rather poor parenting, at least that is what I assume it is.

Serious Stress Test

How we respond to stress when it arrives is hard to predict. However much we plan or prepare, the reality can be different. Life can provide us with unrelenting strain, serious illness, financial ruin, loss of a loved one – much of our ability to control these things is as fictional as the movies. Yet, we can plan, doing so in our more thoughtful moments, so that we can fall back on who we are, not what our surging biology deems us to be in the crucible of the furnace. It is easy to put off difficult things in life, we may get warning signs – even billboards, but sometimes even three at once isn’t enough in this modern twist on “don’t kill the messenger”.

So here I am…. have you got your stuff together?

Here’s the official trailer, the movie is tipped to do well in the award season, partly because it seems to reflect the moment in America today. Oh… and the language is certainly….. colourful.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Three Billboards2023-12-01T12:18:16+00:00

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

Most of the work that I do for clients is behind the scenes… if you like our own hidden figures. Whether this is monitoring the performance of portfolios and reviewing asset allocations along with investment costs, these are aspects that fall into the “under the bonnet” category.

Getting the numbers accurate is something that we attempt in the knowledge that failure is almost certain. There are too many variables and too many unpredictable factors. We make assumptions, reasonable ones and review them – frequently. This is of course in relation to the future, not the present or indeed the past. Being precise is not an easy task, made ever harder when the rules are constantly and needlessly altered by the Government of the day… or week. Behind the scenes we are checking and reviewing, trying to ensure that your financial plan remains on track. We run test scenarios, but ultimately a plan is nothing without the risk of becoming a reality through implementation.

Inside NASA

I was intrigued initially by the title of the new film “Hidden Figures” and then realised that it was about mathematicians at NASA. In particular black, female mathematicians and their vital contribution to NASA space exploration and the moon landing.

We Three Queens

It is hard to comprehend the segregation that was widespread in America. Yet sadly, it has become increasingly apparent that America continues to struggle with an undercurrent of racism. Hidden Figures is a wonderful movie, telling the story of three women in particular, Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson); Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). Frankly, these three shame my own mathematical abilities, but I guess that at least financial planning isn’t rocket science. They were true pioneers and wonderful examples of determination, despite obstacles designed to deliberately impede, thwart and oppress.

Robo-Advice

There are messages within the story beyond that of challenging racist attitudes. These women faced the constant threat of being made redundant due to the advances in technology. Today the device that you are reading this from probably has more computing power than Apollo 11 enjoyed. The challenge of technology replacing people, is a real one. In every field there is the prospect of computers doing the work more effectively. In my field, we call it robo-advice. Some are very concerned for their future.

Being right, Being present, Being human

It seems to me, that most of us enjoy and appreciate the advantages of technology, yet still prefer to deal with a real person. Being right isn’t the same as being present, or being able to dialogue thoughtfully. The problems seem to arise when we treat each other as less than people, inhuman, something that Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson fought against with enormous courage and dignity.

Here is the trailer. I think it’s my favourite of this year’s short-list for Best Picture. The audience at the local Wimbledon Odeon cheered and clapped, not something that happens regularly. Perhaps because, for me, it reveals both the worst and the best of America.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Hidden Figures2023-12-01T12:18:45+00:00

Dancing in the Moonlight

Moonlight

Imagine being unable to give voice to your dreams, let alone be permitted to live them. Doing so would result in physical violence, exclusion, prison and perhaps death. Moonlight. This is a sadly familiar story. Throughout history we have seen the cost of standing up for fairness, equality and dignity. Yet today, there are many countries where freedoms that most of us take for granted are prohibited.

However, even within more egalitarian countries, there are pockets of fear and suspicion, where freedoms are not as available as they might be.  You know the freedoms I’m talking about, for gender, ethnicity and sexuality. The movie “Moonlight” explores the taboo of homosexuality within American black culture. It is a powerful and moving story of one man’s struggle with his identity and is effort to build himself and find somewhere where he fits.

Being true to yourself

There is very little in the film that I can possibly hook onto for a financial planning angle. The best I can do is remind you that whoever you are, you have a story and as a financial planner my role also involves helping you to write and live the story you wish to be told of your life. This means being true to yourself, not simply accepting the social norms of what the majority expect from working life and a lengthy retirement. What others think is not as important as your own integrity and an authentic walk, which I concede is pretty easy for a white, English speaking, able-bodied, heterosexual, married male to say.

Freedom is more than spending power

I am utterly fed up with hearing negative pointed comments about feminism or political correctness. As far as I can tell, both simply seek fairness, respect and civility and anyone that thinks those are not worthy aspirations really does need to rethink their values. OK, so Moonlight won’t be for everyone, but the non-acceptance of difference should be a cause for concern to us all. British, Sri-Lankan comedian Romesh Ranganathan challenged me (and the audience) about this last night at a small cabaret near Victoria.  Much like the Lear’s Fool, he pulled no punches with some harsh truths about what we find offensive or normal, whilst wrapped in the the mirth of comedy.  It seems that the world is currently attempting to turn back time on the progressive changes that have been hard-won. Why people cannot live in peace is a mystery that I will never fathom. If money is meant to bring freedom, then some of the richest still have much to learn.

Here is the trailer for Moonlight.

and here is a short video of Romesh Ranganatham at the Royal Variety Show.

 

 

 

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Dancing in the Moonlight2023-12-01T12:18:47+00:00

More thoughts on Brexit

More thoughts on Brexit

I have spoken to a number of clients, all of whom expressed great sadness at the outcome of the EU referendum. I’m sure that some of our clients voted to leave for very good reasons (such as the EU being a huge bureaucracy that seems unwilling to change its ways). If you could cut through the bile of the media and politicians, then there was a debate to be had. Sadly, many are ill-informed about the actual issues, facts, experts, historical context and any sense of idea about what the impact really might be.

Many are still deeply distressed about the result, because it feels wrong. It feels as though something has been stolen from us all. Our nation, which is one of the most tolerant and safest places for anyone to live, has appeared to give the impression that we simply don’t care about others any more. We have had enough… “we want to take our country back”.

I am one of those that is deeply angry. At times, I have lost the internal conflict and said some things which probably doesn’t help. I apologise. I have been fed up that most of the commentary within my sector is written by white men, who are fairly wealthy and have little experience of racism in person and because they don’t see it, assume its not very bad.

Another stereotype – give me a badge

I am deeply concerned about the way that the far right appear to have been given permission to behave in a manner which feels like a threat to the core of this country, or what I think this country is. I have watched and read in dismay at stories and videos of some horrible incidents. There is an air of menace, interrogation and intimidation. As a large, bald, white male, sadly I appear to match the general stereotype of a thug. I feel the need to wear a badge that says the equivalent of “I didn’t vote for this, I don’t want you to leave, you are safe with me”. What I still fail to understand is why so few seem so unwilling to recognise that this was always the likely outcome. People that I respect and admire greatly, of all creeds and ethnicity.

I know full well that Westminster has condemned racist acts in the past, and did so again yesterday (Monday) but to be blunt, lots of white middle class men (largely) invariably move their lips to a soundtrack that seems at odds with their actions. However “good” a Prime Minister David Cameron has been (which is of course subjective) he was the one that agreed to run the referendum and its result has created this deep state of unease.

We have clients from all backgrounds. We have friends, colleagues and neighbours. Many are deeply worried for their future because of the newfound “courage” that fascists have been handed with a vote to “leave” for which they read – tell everyone to go (it seems). We have to stand up against this, not afterwards, but in the moment, during. If that is a frightening prospect, well that’s the practice of standing in another’s shoes and what it means to stand against racism.

Yes there is a reason…

I understand that most of these people are poor, often poorly educated, a product of their circumstances and if they are constantly told that they are worthless they tend to believe that lie until someone else, proclaiming nationalistic values, provides a form of antidote with a sense of identity. However this is no excuse, just an explanation.

So however you voted, the reasons why those of us that voted “remain” were invariably beyond the mere numbers of costs, economics and bureaucracy. We know that immigration needs careful controlling, we know that integration could and should be far better than it is. But we also know that we are all lucky to be born here, which is all it is, a random roll of the dice.

Business is more than money, its also community

Perhaps this is not the place to talk about “my feelings” after all, I run a business designed to serve you to make better financial decisions. However to be candid again, the financial planning I do, that works best is all about personal values – yours (and mine) and invariably the money is the least important bit. If my job is simply to protect your wealth, then frankly this is also a part of that.

and here is an oldie… The Power of One.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

More thoughts on Brexit2023-12-01T12:19:08+00:00

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-blogger

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

A timely new (2010) musical “Scottsboro Boys” has returned to London, currently playing at The Garrick off Leicester Square. It is the story of 9 black men… well youths really, aged 13-19. Who were in the wrong place (Alabama) at the wrong time (25 March 1931). You may know the story, which is also reminiscent of the Harper Lee novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird”.  I didn’t know this particular story, but sadly it is all too familiar… a lynching and swift carriage of gross injustice. It is a depressing tale about stupidity, bigotry and racism in a world that one would hope was consigned to history, but is clearly alive and fuelled by the same misplaced and misinformed fears.

As you might imagine, its a provocative piece, which has some interesting ideas. TScottsboro Boyshe juxtaposition of black men playing white men (and women) in a parody of Minstrel Shows, further revealing how misguided and disrespectful such things were/are and culminating in a particularly disturbing “blacked up” segment. The creators draw on ideas from Cabaret and Chicago, using song and dance harmonies to hide but reveal the discord. A criticism I would have is that the show isn’t very energetic, rather “sedate” but then perhaps this is quite deliberate, given the restrictions of prison and a hot box… and the final scene of powerful protest.

The Truth Will Set You Free

This is not a hopeful story, in fact it wasn’t until 2013 that the Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley signed the Scottsboro Boys Act, which exonerated all nine of them. Today America, the “land of the free” is still a tinderbox with unresolved racial issues and it is little wonder that so many are concerned about what seems to be systemic racism, where it would still appear that white lives are worth more than black lives. Whilst it is now nearly 84 years since the original incident, I am left to reflect on a phrase that I use daily – tempus fugit. Time flies… well, whilst it certainly seems to, I guess in practice, it will be a matter of perspective. Whilst I enjoy freedom, without too much genuine concern that it could be curtailed, for those that live with daily prejudice and injustice, I doubt that time moves quickly at all… and if the current state of global politics is anything to measure, it would seem that attitudes certainly do not change quickly. A lifetime of injustice must make time “feel” rather different. A museum, which often acts like a time travelling device, is a reminder of the past, to their credit Alabama have opened a museum to this history. The hope that I take from this is that it takes a brave community to be honest about its past…as it does for us all. Truth is something that I uphold as a virtue and something I bring to my work with clients, but perhaps the greater truth is that truth sometimes takes a very long time to be exposed, sometimes too long is far too late and may not, in fact set you free.

Scottsboro Boys runs until 21 February 2015 at The Garrick, London.

Dominic Thomas

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time2023-12-01T12:39:49+00:00
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