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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Narrative

     Terry Pratchett observed more than once that world runs on stories. A lot of who we are as people depends on the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, and the stories we have been told by others. In the past, I have told myself I was a musician, a fencer, a pagan priest, and a number of other fictions. I shared those fictions with others, and they became part of my narrative.

      We hunger for stories. Stories give meaning to the world, whether ancient myth or modern one. They fire the imagination that is vital to us as a species, the imagination that has rebuilt the world with our tools. The imagination that looks at a cloud and says "that looks like a dog". The imagination that looks at the stars and asks: "why?"

     We Hunger for stories- We Hunger so much that we crave stories true and false about the people who star in our stories. we can walk through  a supermarket line and see little tantalizing slices or celebrity gossip, teasing us to buy. Facebook is filled to bursting with stories of dogs saved, returning soldiers, heroism and debauchery. And we digest it as we search for more. We are gluttons for stories
   
     There may come a day when we fly this earth and colonize new earths, under new suns. We have already been there in the stories in our minds, and the ones we read or watch. Stories can accomplish great things.

     Stories can accomplish terrible things, as well. I met a man today wearing the shirt of his chosen candidate for office. I complimented him, and he told me (after a fashion) why his candidate wasn't elected president in 2016. Yes, pause and check the date of my post. I'll wait.

     He seemed to be already creating the narrative for a loss next year. His candidate was too plain spoken, too authentic, and that scares people. He's too reasonable in a world where that doesn't matter. My thinking is that if you want your guy to win, convince people why he is the best choice, rather than giving them a reason to think there is no point in backing him.

     So the point of all this. Go out and write your story. Make it a good one. Remember that you are the protagonist of your own tale, and make sure it is a story you would want to read as much as live. And if your narrative isn't to your liking...change it.


“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Cardians of the Galaxy

     In a post earlier this year, I mentioned that I skipped the toys from Guardians of the Galaxy because they did not fit with my collection.

     Then I saw a Hot Wheels car, and HE WAS GROOT.



     These cars by Mattel are not supposed to be the cars the characters drive, they are cars inspired by, and symbolic of the characters. Or possibly their incarnations in the world of Cars...but probably not.

     Anyway, you know me, and I ended up with all five of these.

Starlord- the photo doesn't shnow this detail but the orb is on his back deck,
under the rear window
Gamora- there is some subtle pin-striping on the sides
Drax- his tattoos have texture, and he has knives in his truck-bed
Rocket- with raccoon ears and fur
And Groot is designed as a car hauler for him


Come Closer, Children, and See the Living Crocodile

     Putting Fingers to keys after freshly finishing "From a Buick 8" by Stephen King for about the fourth time.

     I'm going to say right off, two things. Three. First, this is my absolute favorite book by Stephen King, and one of my favorite books period. Second, I hope to Primus this never gets made into a movie. Third, I hope it gets made into a movie and done right.

    Contradict myself much? Part of the magic of the human brain is that we can hold contradictory concepts right next to each other without too much spillover.

     I'm going to try not to spoil too much here. The book takes the form of narrative from several Pennsylvania State Troopers as they tell the story of a mysterious sort-of 1954 Buick Roadmaster that they impounded, and stayed custodians of. The tale is told to Ned Wilcox, the son of trooper Curtis Wilcox who died in the line of duty on a routine stop. It is told by Sergeant-Commanding Sandy Dearborn and others, each weaving their own piece into the tapestry of the tale of a thing that was not quite a Buick, and the things that came of it.

     On the Surface, this is a book not unlike King's others-in that it's about ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. I think what sets it apart for me is that it is not about a struggle of good to destroy evil, like The Stand, or 'Salems Lot. It is about a struggle to understand something so alien to our human perception that we can only think of the sights, the smells, the sounds, as "like" something. More like something than anything else you could compare it to. And as the book "matures", it's the struggle to accept that some things cannot be understood, only managed.

     I say managed here, rather than accepted, because the State Troopers in the book keep the Buick locked away to protect the world, or their little slice of it, safe. If the Buick is a gate, they become the guards at that gate, holding it against invaders, keeping secret traditions and rituals of their own to protect those they are sworn to. And all around them, Pennsylvania happens, and they protect their corner of it, business as usual.

     Also what sets it apart for me is how extraordinary circumstance becomes just another routine, without ever becoming sloppy. Even if the Lion is old and sleeps most of the time...it is still, now and forever, a LION. And it will do what a Lion does, probably if you turn your back on it.

     I mentioned contradictory thoughts, earlier. Sandy, the prime narrator, goes through a lot of these as he tells Ned the story, and Ned reacts. He loves the boy, so like his father, but at times he is enraged by Ned's responses, and hates him a little bit, too. This is some of the most human storytelling I have ever heard. I think we all have felt that way, to some extent, and I think King is pretty brave for putting that out there.

     The movie version of Christine barely scratches the surface of the transformation of good natured Arnie into the sinister and sullen LeBay...it would be hard to do, and tricky for audiences weaned on Jason and Freddy to feel the more subtle horror of the loss of identity and replacement with "other". This one would be, I suspect, even harder to convey in a movie or a mini-series.

The Photos that follow may be disturbing, spoilerish, or just downright photographically amateurish- view at your own risk

the midnight blue Buick Roadmaster
Generates from time to time what the Troopers call 

"LightQuakes"
and gives birth to MONSTERS
with that toothy, 1950s grill


     Final words...the book references a poem called the Wonderful "One-hoss Shay": here is a link to that work.

      Really final words... the ultimate point of the book is that some things can't be understood, only dealt with in the best fashion you can. You deal with them, make them part of the job at hand, and then you get on with that job. Toward the end of the book, Sandy quotes another character, who likens the Buick to a jigsaw piece that doesn't fit into the puzzle. and one day you flip it over and discover that the back of the piece is red, and all of the other pieces have green backs. He cautions him against spending too much time worrying at it, because...

"There are Buicks everywhere"

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Tiny Review of Ant-Man

     When I saw the first trailer, I wasn't too excited. Every Marvel studios movie so at had been great, but this one... well, how were they going to reconcile Hank Pym, a contemporary of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and an original Avenger, with all that had gone before? To say nothing of the fact that it was Dr Pym, not Stark, who built Ultron. I was still going to  see it, of course, just not too hyped.


     That changed with the second trailer. I got optimistic, real sudden-like.


     Ant-Man was two movies, and neither disappointed. Spoilers follow.

     Ant-Man the superhero origin story tells the story of Scott Lang, a recently paroled burglar, looking for work and trying desperately to catch up on child support payments, so he can have visitation with his daughter. After refusing over and over to return to his life of crime,  he finally gives in and agrees to do a job. Instead of money in the safe, Scott finds a weird suit. Curious, he plays with it, and finds himself...a lot smaller

     Enter Hank Pym. He set Scott up to audition him. He guides Scott by radio through the nightmarish landscape of  a world suddenly grown too large for him, convinces him to be the Ant-Man. To help him keep the Pym particles, a technology which reduces the space between atoms, from being turned into a weapon of war.

     Which brings us to Ant-Man, the heist movie. I have seen a lot of classic heists- Oceans 11-13, the Italian Job, the Thomas Crown Affair, to name a few. A heist movie has certain elements that make it distinctive, and one of these is the "crew". Scott's crew of likeable ex cons makes the movie as much as his interactions with Pym, Pyms daughter, Scott's daughter, or the inevitable fight when Ant-Man meets the Falcon at the Avengers compound.

     This movie is as fun as any of the other marvel studios films, more fun than a couple of them. As a sidenote, it also has one of the greatest product tie-ins ever:

Ant Man Ant Farm -  Uncle Milton - Toys"R"Us


I Give this 5 out of 5 stars on my personal scale.