Solo

‘Alone again, naturally’ … great lyric that has almost nothing to do with the subject at hand, and yet is somewhat appropriate.

For the last couple of months, and perhaps longer, various experts, fans and assorted pundits, purists and punks have written and talked trash about a movie based largely on their opinion and feeding negativity to a collection of unwashed trolls who generally eat up their caustic commentary with a side-order of self-important virtual-swagger.

As to the aforementioned lyric, I’m not alone and I wasn’t when I saw Solo. The group I was with and the crowd we sat behind agree … Solo is a good movie. Solo is entertaining, involving, well-crafted and delivers on its promise and its premise.

The promise was to deliver a good movie that was worth the price of admission, done and dusted.

The premise was to tell the back story of Han Solo … ‘Cut the cheque’ as a certain actor has voiced after flying high as a falcon.

A friend mentioned here that Solo was worth seeing, and as I value Matt’s opinion I thought I would check it out. My wife and son joined me, so admittedly they are a somewhat biased demographic on which to justify a positive review. Our guest was a young woman I work with, who is not, by her own admission, a Star Wars Fan. I think her words were ‘saw it, turned it off’.  She loved this movie and was actively watching and enjoying, except for one moment of robot dialogue that elicited a ‘Oh no she didn’t,’ response … which I felt was justified and I won’t try to ‘fansplain’ it away.

I am a Star Wars fan since taking my younger brother to see Star Wars in 1977.  This is not that movie. This is an adventure story, a coming of age, a science-fiction tale of wonder. thrills and daring escapes. It does seem that it’s a bit like that movie.

Alden Ehrenreich, the actor  who plays Han Solo, captures the energy, enthusiasm and intensity that Harrison Ford brought to the character and there is a hint of the self-assured swagger. He lacks the later cool confidence but that suits this stage of Han’s life. Woody Harrelson as the edgy and likable scoundrel, Thandie Newton as an equally adept but less accepting scoundrel, Donald Glover as the suave gambler Lando Calrissian, and there’s a whole collection of Imperial troopers, thieves, and various locals who give this movie a nuanced reality.

This is a Star Wars story that will add more depth to the stories and characters you know, and it is a good movie that will entertain and involve you. You will care what happens to these people and you will be invested in their adventures, struggles and relationships.

Back to that lyric for a moment. This movie is not doing as well as it could be doing, largely because the press and the more rabid individuals among the Star Wars fan-base have decided that Solo is not their Star Wars. Solo is not Jar Jar Binks, nor is it The Force Awakens. Solo is a good movie that can be judged solely on that basis. It can stand on its own.

 

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Lost in Alternate Realities

I have spent as many hours as possible sitting in darkened movie theaters lost in alternate realities, and I have loved every moment of it. For a twelve-year-old boy, there was nothing better.

There weren’t many days spent in darkened theaters when I was that age. At age 12 we were living in Pointe Au Baril Station, Ontario. Our village, Pointe Au Baril Station, sits along highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury. It is a small community of 300 people.

It had, and likely still has, a couple of gas stations, a liquor store, two general stores and a few marinas and lodges scattered over the North and South shores. We also had two churches, a small school, a bank, a Royal Canadian Legion Hall, and a privately ran post office/bait shop and a community center that had a few purposes. Dance place, meeting hall, and tourist information center being a few.

For me it’s most important purpose was the Friday night movie. Not quite a darkened theater. Enter the large hall with me. Sit down on a folding chair. There are always enough chairs. The old projector comes to life. The blank wall is filled with wonder.

This is also what comics did for me. I bought my comics at Higman’s Highway Market. Kennedy’s didn’t sell comics. I made my money for comics by cashing in beer bottles. The bottles were redeemed at Wing’s Shell station. No, We didn’t drink the beer … that came later.

With a summer tourist trade estimated at about 2,000 we had a lot of empties to cash in. My brother and I also had a lucrative sideline in frogs. I delivered lunches to construction crews, cut grass, tied boats, and shoveled snow. My younger brother Troy and I sold frogs to the local pool hall owner who sold them to sport fishermen as bait.

The frogs, the bottles, the snow and such helped to fill the blank canvas of a child. A mental landscape filled with Dr. Doom, a blind attorney, a playboy millionaire, and a collection of princesses, orphans, and misunderstood do-gooders. Many of those characters, and their worlds, were given form by Gene Colan.

Gene wasn’t the first artist I admired. At first I liked the cleaner lines of Curt Swan and Dick Dillon. Kirby leaped off the page for me, and then something happened. I found art that resonated. It stayed with me. It seemed to have a depth beyond the page. It flowed. It showed me a world beyond my own, and yet was reflective of that world.

Gene’s (if I may be so familiar) art allowed me to see a bit of wonder in my own reality. I didn’t need to escape as much as search.

Thank you for that clarity.

Conspiracy Theories: Our Quest for ‘Truth’.

Psssst, know any good conspiracy theories?
Do people disagree or agree with conspiracy theories on principle? Do people have a knee-jerk reaction to deny or accept them? We are human, to the best of our current knowledge. As humans, we need to understand tragedy. We are hard-wired to look for answers. The search for truth is both our blessing and a curse of our biology. Looking for answers has helped us to achieve, to reach, to overreach and to build at an almost equal rate to what we destroy. When we marvel at the pyramids, we see history and we see questions. Who, what, when and why are powerful drivers in our psyche? If we’re asking where, we may have a few gaps in our general knowledge. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned by ceaseless propaganda to react with Pavlovian-like predictability to the utterances of media pundits and political talking heads. Right, left and center of the political spectrum, across ethnic, racial and gender divides we are equal in our willingness to bark and slobber as the bells of propaganda are rung.
What really gets us salivating? What makes us bark and yap on Social media? Gossip.
We like mysteries. We love hidden cities, secret rooms, alternative endings. With equal fervor, we love and despise the idea that someone is hiding things. It’s why we love to gossip. People can’t keep secrets. How many family secrets get blurted out over BBQ, or posted on social media? How long can a public official keep anything private? Can the military actually plan, execute and wrap up an operation in a completely clandestine-manner? From ancient Babylon and Sparta, and through the ages up to the modern Persian Gulf, spies have changed history. The intrigues, plots, thefts and lies existed in Greece, Rome and China and up to the fall of the Russia-led soviet state. Secrets have been hidden, lost, stolen and revealed. The fortunes and misfortunes of war have been influenced by the information gathered by espionage. In the modern era, everyone is a potential spy. Potential motivation: money, power, disruption, relief of boredom.
It may be that we have always had this need to share, publicize and record events in minute detail. If phone-cameras had existed 1,000 years ago, the Doomsday book would have included selfies of the invading and defending leaders and the latest Norman fashions.
Our culture is built on ideas and on dirty secrets, or perhaps the idea that there must be dirty secrets. From stains on blue dresses to secret apartments, and then to weapon sales. From who the Queen slept with, to whom the King killed to gain power. From secret deliveries to rebel armies. From political struggles to attempted coups. From assassinations to false flags. From cocaine-funded insurrections to poison cigars. From second-shooters to hidden explosives, to ‘gilding the lily’ before a congressional committee. From a secret desire to meet people in cubicles, and sharing genitalia images, with or without permission. It’s about arms-sales, about having a secret, sharing a secret, uncovering a secret, and being privy to the dirt.
We love discovery, almost as much as we hunger for secrets. We are awed by the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Easter Island, the Great Wall of China, and even by the construction of majestic cathedrals that took the efforts of generations. Were there hidden secrets in the construction of these marvels of antiquity? We will probably never know. Do the Dead Sea Scrolls offer more insight, are there undiscovered drafts of the Koran, or the Torah? Did L Ron Hubbard get miles to the gallon, or lightyears? In our modern age, could our most wonderous achievements be fiction?
Are there lies behind some of our greatest tragedies? Did we travel to the moon? Did Roosevelt know before Pearl Harbor? Did military aircraft shoot down a plane on 9/11?
It seems likely that FDR and his staff had some inkling of Japanese military plans or at least the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Hawaii. As for the Apollo mission of 1969, and the subsequent missions; could hundreds of support personnel, families, and outside contractors have faked a series of moon landings and then kept it secret? Someone would have shared it just because they had the secret. During a game of golf, a beer, and as pillow-talk. Some scraps of film, some pictures of the soundstages would have been discovered by now. Our inability to keep secrets makes modern conspiracies less likely. Not that people are less motivated to lie, to be corrupt or to cheat, just that it’s easier to discover. The larger the group keeping the secret, the more likely someone will share. In the age of Anonymous and WikiLeaks secrets are fleeting. Keeping secrets may have become an act of hubris.
People will work to undermine the goals of a group, or even their own interests. We have been conditioned to overshare, even if it makes us look bad. Just ask Anthony Weiner, Donald Trump, and OJ Simpson. For some it may be that the world is flat, that we never landed on the moon, that secret technology is being withheld, that aliens built mostly everything, and that John F. Kennedy was shot by two people, the CIA, the Mafia, the FBI, the Boy Scouts, and three aliens who worked for Lyndon Baines Johnson.
We love secrets and gossip so much that we will create events, and the ‘facts’ to support them.
Sometimes facts are massaged, and sometimes they’re twisted. Sometimes they’re created from shoes, and ships, and ceiling wax. There will always be someone who wants us to walk along as they share tales of deceit, treachery and the perverse pleasures of perfect strangers.
Private emails, secret memos, plans for Jet fighters, the formula for fried chicken and soft drinks, and private pictures have all found their way to the public-form. There are organizations and individuals who make it their business to find, steal, duplicate and sell those closely-guarded secrets. The loss of this information could seriously damage, or even destroy, a company, a brand or a carefully crafted reputation. The loss of large companies means the loss of jobs and has wide-spread repercussions in the national and global market. It should be acknowledged that some of these leaks are for publicity and some are fictions. Hitler’s diary and fake celebrity nudes are publicity-engines. Click-bait headlines and breaking news banners can turn slow news days into profitable cycles, but carefully crafted BS can be monetized and used to drive other agendas.
For now, let’s leave the possible hidden agendas and ulterior motives to your fertile and endlessly fermenting imaginations.

Here There and Nowhere

He sings the body incredulous.
Existing between never was, and never will be.
Existing without substance, yet heralding shifting bedrock.
Occupying no fixed space, filling no specific need.
Both the unexpected journey and the probable consequence.
For all his banal and baleful presence, he is neither cause nor solution.

Living in Indonesia: A Husband’s Perspective

This was originally written in 1998 … I haven’t changed much, other than punctuation.

Vantage graphics ... accept no substitutes

For me, the stress of this crisis began on Monday, May 18th.

“You’ve been ordered to leave.” Dini’s voice was rapid and strained.

“When?’ I asked as if someone was telling me the bar was about to close.

“This afternoon. Everyone’s meeting at the Shangri-La hotel.”

Dini, from the Canadian consulate, has been a great help. She’s helped with paperwork for our marriage; she intervened with an employer, and she has been a conduit for official information. Dini is also a very professional and pleasant person. Her clipped speech and frantic tone were completely out of character.

Basically, here was the situation. The Canadian Embassy and the US Consulate General Surabaya had chartered a flight. Canadians, Americans, Germans, Dutch and a couple of Turkish nationals were going to fly to Singapore.

For this excursion, they would pay the bargain price of $500 USD. Now, if you’re a businessman or an engineer – no problem. Teachers in Indonesia make between $300 and $450 USD per month. When you have a family, with children in school, you don’t have an excess of cash. My wife Emily and I have two children, Emily’s from a previous marriage, but nonetheless – our children. The wolf may indeed have been at the door, but that sucker was going hungry tonight. My family is my life and no crisis will change that.

On Sunday night we had a family meeting. I outlined the options.

Canada: We could spend everything we have and take the family to Canada. Canada is where I have family and friends, but no job to go back to. More importantly, I don’t have a place to stay, at least for any extended period.

America: I have friends there. Emily, my wife, has a visa. I love the country. It’s a damn expensive trip, and again I don’t have a home or a job there.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is a big, beautiful and exciting city. Emily speaks passable Mandarin and her mother is fluent in Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese. The children’s Chinese is like my Indonesian: pathetic but earnest. Emily has family there. Hong Kong is impossible without money. Finding a job could be next to impossible. I want to see Hong Kong, but I’d prefer the experience to be a positive one.

Taiwan: The jobs are there in Taiwan. Many teachers have left for Taiwan. Would my family be allowed in? I can’t take the chance.

In the end, we decided to wait it out here.

With Wednesday’s impending madness (see story) almost upon us we discussed hiding out in one of Surabaya’s hotels or going out of town. We decided to wait on developments.

No one could give me a clear answer about the family. They’re Indonesian citizens, but they’re also Chinese. Even if Emily could come – as she’s my wife – what about the kids? Even if Emily and the kids were allowed, what about Emily’s mum? their Grandmother? my mother-in-law?

Do in-laws count as carry-on luggage? Don’t freak gentle reader – I love my mother-in-law. She’s a great lady. The bottom line is; I’m not leaving my family.

Norm Mcdonald from the Canadian Embassy said later that my family might be able to come out with me. On their own, Canadians have returned home. Some remain in Singapore waiting out the crisis.

Some will undoubtedly go to Taiwan or Thailand. Some will even go to Bali.

Some American friends are now in Bali, waiting.

We are now at home waiting for the situation to return to normal. Here we sit, packed suitcases and documents at the ready.

Local children are in the street. They’re playing volleyball. The ball makes a dull thud when they hit it. The balls here never seem to have enough air. They’re having fun.

Meanwhile, we sit behind our seven-foot iron fence – waiting.

Some streets, like the one directly in front of our house, are blocked by rusting cars and vans, while other streets are occupied by soldiers. The men seem decidedly less rusty than the cars and vans. The men seem to be having less fun than the children. The men are waiting.

People sit in small groups, talk, drinking and eating. Kaki Limas (five-legged men) the street merchants with their pushcarts, sell food and drink. The voices on the street are uncharacteristically low.

Sharing quick smiles, and nervous glances, hands together or resting on knees – they wait.

A young woman, eating food from a Kaki Lima, shakes her hips slowly and seductively to Ricky Martin’s ‘Maria‘. A large black rooster intrudes on the volleyball game. He exits quickly as the ball narrowly misses him. Too bad. He’s probably the noisy bugger who woke me up this morning, at three o’clock. The dancer has finished her meal and joined the game.

Young men, previously content to watch, have now joined the game. For now, they are moving, playing, and laughing. The waiting may come later.

Part Two fewnights2

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