Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Thoughts on 2019 (Let It Go?)

Closing out the year is such an artificial contrivance.

2019 C.E. quakes in my belly like a maelstrom. Division, corruption, my country first-ism all in parallel with global crises rising. And yet amidst those wildfires, our species, of which I am part, reigns dominant, devouring resources endlessly, slaughtering animals by the trillions, leaving a scorched wake behind it.

2020 C.E. lies just ahead, sure to build upon the embers of last year's challenges. Yet the opportunity for alliances to be formed to explore imperfect solutions exists. Looking with integrity inside ourselves and our communities we can do better. Toward better planetary stewardship, toward healing of heart and mind, with hope we step forward.

Crossing into another year is such an artificial contrivance.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Star Wars: The Death of Devisiveness

I was nine in 1977 when I first saw Star Wars: A New Hope, and frankly I rather liked the movie Herbie Goes Bananas much better that year. Nevertheless, as I grew, the Star Wars saga flowed hot and imperfect in my veins as "the" sci-fi story of my era. In its clash between Sith and Jedi, Star Wars serves as a visionary stage of good fighting evil where generational and individual power cycle with ferocity. In its cinematic pages our beloved heroes and villains highlight the relationships forged within the galactic maelstrom.

I won't recap the expansive story arc here. Likely, given this epic space opera has suffused modern culture for 42 years and counting, you know it already in your belly. To be sure, we all have digested it at different levels-- the light-saber melees, the space battles, the friendships gained and lost, the epic conflict between dark and light.

(For an alternate Star Wars universe timeline, check out my fanfic on the machine uprising led by C3PO.) (And fwiw here's my take on The Last Jedi)

As for Episode IX, no real spoilers here today. Open that gift when you can and examine it like you might any other. Do expect an emotional, emo Chewbacca having a really bad hair day. Expect lasers and explosions spilling across primordial and dystopian landscapes galore. Expect slo-mo, acrobatics as light-sabers clash. Expect tears, hugs, goodbyes and a minor revelation two.

Amidst that, at times delicious, clutter, also expect catharsis. You might just find like I did that the Star Wars saga radiates an overarching, sordid sincerity. For at its heart this post-modern epic illustrates how generations past have created a holy paradigm where good and evil must rage against each other. The paradigm of militarized holy war (for gods and economy) devours our very world today. Perhaps, with the guidance of a story, we can leave that paradigm behind.

Episode IX's final resolution therefore isn't the dominance of good over evil; it is their dismissal. The unification of the Force is about finding balance within our imperfect selves, support from imperfect allies and better outcomes from imperfect institutions. Setting our light-sabers aside, we CAN come together to leverage reason and compassion against deception and suffering. Together, albeit imperfectly, we can keep the golden light of hope raised high.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Why I like Solstice

The word Solstice has a nice ring to it. There's a thoughtful chew to the sound of it, hearkening to something alien with international flair.

The Solstice moment occurs twice annually when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined maximally from the Sun. Incredibly, Solstice is both Winter and Summer simultaneously depending what hemisphere you're standing on. I only recently realized that twist.

There's definitely a pagan flavor to Solstice, having been important to ancient peoples when they didn't quite understand why the Sun and the Seasons came and went. They imagined great powers at work carrying the life giving power of Sol to and fro.

They were right. Great powers are at work. Gravitational, optical, and nuclear... universal physics that we understand much better now, and take for granted mostly.

But I like Solstice mostly because its a unifier. All Earthlings experience Solstice, regardless of the biological kingdom they belong to. Non-living things too.

In my mind the idea of the Earth as a whole, rotating, revolving, and coasting with the Sun in its sine-wave travels around galactic central is beautiful. And in that moment of Solstice, there's an opportunity to see the world together, as one. (Flat Earthers included)

Happy Solstice!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Solstice Cometh

Oh my! I'm not sure whether to classify this morning's encounter as a holiday miracle or a magic brownie hangover. You be the judge.

Bright and early I was primping the winter display at my chocolate shoppe. I like to provide a welcoming atmosphere for the diverse people of my New England town. In fact, I make a point to feature the COEXIST symbol centrally highlighting the many faiths of my melting-pot community.  An ever so tasteful assortment of holiday Americana surrounds it, including glittered pine cones, miniature wicker reindeer and simply marvelous stained-glass snowflakes from the artisan boutique on the corner. This year, I even added a garland of lights as a nod to Divali. 

All was set for what I hope to be a holiday season that is both joyful and profitable. Goddess knows, with a monthly Beamer payment and tuition bills for two, I'll be lucky if I'm able to get away for even a single weekend with the family in Aspen this year.  

The morning light set my shoppe merry and twinkling, so I settled with anticipatory delight behind the counter. I began flipping through Instagram's #SeasonalConfection offerings when the jingle-bell rigged door announced my first customer of the day.  A warm, humid gust entered as well, jostling the evergreen trimmings and whirling plastic snow about in a small cyclones. Twas within that minor maelstrom, that the shadowy form of Kris Kringle approached.

"Really, you're here a bit early," I voiced with obvious dismay.

Now, forgive me if I wax a touch politically incorrect here. I mean, I do agree to allow the often questionable Salvation Army volunteers to solicit nearby, but their presence never helps business. Apart from their annoying clamor, none of them have ever made a purchase in the shoppe. But that doesn't stop them from asking to use the restroom on a regular basis.

And yet to my utter horror the Santa silhouette before me resolved not into a Salvation associate but into a seven-foot tall, monstrous, cloaked form complete with degenerate hoodie. Heart pounding, my gaze was drawn to the shimmering surface of the immense burgundy cloak. Across the chest jumbo, day-glo-green letters taunted "Magical Thinking Isn't Thinking at All!"

I was doubly aghast when the cloak's surface went full Hi-Def like the crass video bulletin boards on I-95 that sell sports cars and Jesus. The garment swirled with deep reds, bright and bloody. At its center the green lettering coalesced into a dingy green sphere that expanded in a throbbing mass. Numerous satellites sprung to encircle the rotating planetary image, well outside the cloaked figure itself. If that weren't trip enough, the orbiting satellites then exploded into pixelated fireworks. They reformed into a haughty rainbow of neon to proclaim "The Tilt of the Earth's Axis is the Reason for the Season."

The ominous figure reached up and pulled back the cloak's hoodie exposing a burnished face regaled with ancient creases. Thick, white hair in the form of a double-bun crowned the ogreish head while two icicle-blue piercings lanced the rugged cheeks just below eyes that could have doubled for black holes. Daunting features indeed, but it was the jagged "Okay Boomer!" neck tattoo in lightning script that fractured something inside of me. Frozen and speechless, I wondered if I was about to become the victim of some unfathomable, supernatural crime.

Like a drunk pretending to be sober I reached through my psychedelic vision grasping for the rational. I reminded myself this was a potential customer. Business professionalism was my inner mantra. Taking a deep breath I managed to chirp out a fairly agreeable "Happy holidays. How can I help you?"

Ruby pupils lit from within unblinking eye-sockets and the monstrous form leaned toward me over the counter with a nod. The sci-fi golem then slowly lifted one outstretched arm with a single, gaunt finger extended to point behind me. With a parched swallow and eyes tingling, I compelled my head to twist around and look back to my right. Behind some exquisite, (Russian-imported) macrame tinsel, I could just make out the sign I had hung up several years ago. It read "Eco-sourced, Vegan, Fair-trade Chocolate Coming Soon!"

Dumbfounded anew and not knowing exactly what to say, I turned back to explain. My unformed excuses went unspoken. The cloaked figure was gone.

The store was dead quiet and I slunk with exhaled relief to my stool. As my breathing returned to normal, I spotted a hundred dollar bill on the counter before me. Profits are profits, I thought as I picked it up. Except instead of confident and gracious Ben Franklin, 'twas the imperious grin of Donald J. Trump that leered up at me. Suddenly nauseous I closed my eyes for a blur of seconds until most of the dizziness retreated. Sure enough when I looked again, the bill was normal as sunshine on the ski slopes in December.

Well, that's the end of my crazy story--cannabis connection uncertain. Otherwise, the shoppe was busy for the rest of the day, swarming with cheerful, slightly misbehaving children and their friendly, courteous parents. All of them lovers of quality chocolate, fine chocolate which would fuel their joyful, holiday season, and at a not too unreasonable price.

Maybe I should have reported the strange encounter to the police, but what's a businessperson to do? I can't worry myself over half-baked mental states, and I sure can't let this story get out, well, except as an anonymous blog on this ghost hunter site. As for the hundred dollar bill, I put it in the Salvation Army pot. With any luck it will do some good?

For me, the important thing is to forget today ever happened at all.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Knives Out: A Judiciously Political Ginzo-matic Review

An all-star cast in an all too allegorical murder mystery!

"Warning! Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers!" yells this movie analyst.

"Read on anyway! Knives Out's plot is a farce!" he replies with defiance.

Yes indeedy, prepare yourselves!  From a distance Knives Out looks like a cookie-cutter whodunit with a tangled and tired Shyamalan twist ending. Grandma and grandpa will nod and smirk throughout the movie as the Murder She Wrote web of clues unfurls with Matlockian justicial flare.

And yet, Knives Out serves up a cutting edge, allegorical whodunit mystery for the contemporary era, a film more in the keeping with Get Out and Us than any polished Agatha Christie regurgitation.  Beneath the cheesy surface of the mystery, its exaggerated trove of saucy, family suspects, and layers upon layers of lasagna noodle clues, lies a delicious allegory of the rise and fall of American privilege.

The tangle: with the assistance of his kindhearted nurse/friend Marta, a successful mystery writer covers up his own imminent accidental death to look like a suicide and unwittingly avoids his would-be murder. Having changed his will weeks prior, leaving all to said nurse he denies his eccentric, financially-dependent family their expected inheritance, increasing their infighting exponentially including the would-be killer grandson who resorts to another murder in an attempt to declare the will null and void. A suave detective and two boiler-plate cops help to unravel the mystery. At the conclusion, the young nurse stands above all, inheritance secure, gazing upon the self-wrought wreckage of the family.

The allegory: founding father style, creative industriousness (the writer) has perished having only found a true connection in the hardworking, new generation dreamers (the nurse). When the privileged descendants (the family) find their promised, unearned dream slipping away from them, they rebel, retaliate and gnash their teeth to remain in power. Nevertheless, constitutional values (the detective) and justice (the police) weed out the worst of the two-faced nationalists (the failed once, successful once murderer, grandson Hugh Ransom (fittingly played by Captain America, er, I mean, Chris Evans). In the end, the American landscape (the whole, crazy Knives Out scenario) is maneuvered toward a more genuine, positive, dare I say, traditional values future where immigrant, dreamer Americans (the nurse) are passed the American baton, perhaps toward a better future and perhaps the beginning of yet another cycle of Earth-ravishing, civilization-spoiling privilege.

Spoilers and symbolic speculation, notwithstanding, see this movie! Think about the subtleties and implications. I'm sure you'll find your own unique interpretation within the story.

In the end, anytime we view artwork we might just see the cheesy surface or we might delve deeper to reflect, get off our theater-seat arses and make an effort to confront corruption and make a change in ourselves and the world.

...or we might just go home and binge watch some Disney+.