Sunday, February 26, 2006

The World's Fastest Indian/Matador

With the Oscars coming up and all the buzz about the current fad movies about Trans "this and that" and Brokeback companions, I'm going to go out on a limb here and make my recommendations. Two recent "feel good" movies that we have actually gone to the theater to see are "Matador" and "The World's Fastest Indian".

They have many similarities and mainly, for me, they have a over-riding theme ie. "Integrity" Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinear are just perfect as they play off each other in "Matador". We're used to seeing Pierce as "Bond" and finally he has freed himself up from that formulaic architype and played someone who is very believeable. ie. a "retiring contract hit man". It is funny and poignant at the same time. Greg plays his opposite as the up and coming corporate lackey who, as it turns out, will do anything to get ahead. I've known a few like that. It had a surprise twist at the end so I won't ruin it for you. At least rent it on Netflix. The "Matador" stays true to himself and maintains his "integrity" as he faces "retirement" or "literal termination". I feel like I have "been there" recently. When you begin to question your "supervisor's/corporate's" integrity and motivation you know it is time to move on. It just can't continue to be the money and financial security.

I'll go and see anything that Anthoy Hopkins portrays. His latest is "Burt Munro from Down Under". This is a gem of a story because it is based on the real person who set the land/speed record on a motorcycle back in the late 60's. It is a charming and endearing, straight forward telling of his successful attempt to come to the Bonnieville Salt Flats from New Zealand and all the genuinely "good" people he met and how they helped him. Through it all he kept his "integrity" and continued to return to the timed trials 9 times. I am not a "racing enthusiast" by any means, nor have I ever hung out with "bikers or the mechanic types" but this story is so much more than that. It does remind me of my part-time jobs in my first two years of college with Tidewater and Standard Oil. Yes, I was an attendant at a gas station back when they still had them. I sold many an "air filter" to car owners who had just come over the Tioga Pass in Yosemite and "didn't really need them". I knew how to lube and oil a car up on the rack and change the tires etc. I didn't consider myself a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination but I did make enough money to get me through those early years and still have time to study...late at night when few people came in to get gas. I maintained my "integrity" as a "salesman" playing that role many a time to get us by. Anthony, as Burt, does the same thing. He is the real thing and very determined to do what he set out to do ie. "set the record" He just didn't have all that many people along the way who believed in him and his abilities. I've been there too, recently. The film kept you on the edge most of the time because he did it all with "angina" - a hear condition - He would pop one of his "nitro pills" and even, at the end, "pop" one in the gas tank of his "Beloved Indian" for that extra zest of speed it needed. Poppin' pills can make you do some strange things sometimes, even as a "retiree" he should've been. He was not afraid of "injury" or anyone including some very "interesting" characters ie. a transvestite, a desert hermit recluse, and many different versions of "bikers". I also learned a "new way" to fertilize my lemon tree. Two great movies that spoke to me and my current concerns. Bob

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Religion War and Kite Runner

It has been quite a while since I have put down my thoughts here. This retirement business is very involving and exhausting. We have hardly had a moment to stop and think, let alone write about one's thoughts. I've had more time to read and I've done that because I got so many good books for Christmas.

Two of my favorites books are very applicable to the current state of affairs in the Middle East. When I began this blog it was not my object or goal to comment about political or religious themes. However, it seems that I have slipped into that from time to time. It's cogent to my "preservation" theme and what is becoming more and more important to me...and to the World. Scott Adams has a small tome of fiction that follows his thought essay "God's Debris". I wrote about it briefly in a previous posting. It is called "The Religion War". It is a work of "science fiction" in the near future. Some of his observations and projections are not all that "fictitious" in light of what is happening right now in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan. One wonders if we are not seeing the beginnings of a very tragic scenario that he proposes in this book. The rioting over the depiction of very inappropriate "cartoons" only confirms the very divergent "cultural sensitivities" and the beliefs that there are many insurmountable "values disjunction" that have never and may never be overcome. In fact there was a recent attempt at a movie questioning what is considered "funny" or a "sense of humor" in Muslim Society. ie. not depicting their "prophet". There was even the recent suggestion made in the media that there is such sectarian hatred and division in these countries that our concept of "democracy" is impossible at this time and only a strong, totalitarian dictatorship is what can keep the countries from complete anarchy and civil war.

Of course, Scott Adams questions, through his writings, how an omnipotent, omniscient God could allow this all to happen. He plays it out to absurdity with the ultimate "sides" Christian vs. Islam with both sides calling on the same God to help them. This goes back historically to Abraham or "Ibraham" the "father" of both religions. It pits brother against brother from the very beginning, ie back to Cain and Abel. The "Avatar" in his sequel suggests remedies and solutions but is ultimately frustrated with what has to transpire. I won't ruin in for you if you plan to read it, but the conclusion(?) only raises more questions for me. It is almost too simple and ridiculous to be believable. It has to do with "farting and the internet"...go figure.

"Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini has been on the best seller list for weeks, maybe months. It is an engrossing biographical novel/memoir of the lives of two Afghani "brothers" who were "raised" together to a point. I say this in quotes because there was a love/hate relationship fostered by their births and class distinctions. Amir and Hassan. Amir was born Sunni and Hassan, Shi'ite. Amir was educated, Hassan was his servant but they did things together almost as equals. This was back in the 60's and 70's before the recent wars. Their "love" and closeness started to disintegrate when a tragic event happened at the end of the annual kite-flying contest. This whole event was fascinating to me because kite flying holds some of my fondest memories of my dad and my boys.

My dad taught me how to make kites from "scratch". Yes, we made our own flour and water paste, split lath, and bought present-wrapping tissue. On Sunday afternoons in the Spring we would take our hand-made creations to our local Verdugo Hills above Highland Park and fly them as far and as long as we could. We'd have to drive off-road sometimes to get to the "primo" launching spots. We'd pack our lunch and make a day of it. One particular day it was windy and gloriously bright with a few whispy clouds. We had our largest "masterpiece" with new spools of our strongest string. It was always a challenge to get it up and keep it up with all the proper "balancing" tricks and the lengthening of the tail. We got that one way out, "over Pasadena" we thought and then the string broke. We never got it back. It was our prize kite and we lost it to set our "personal best" record.

When I taught school at Chaparral in Claremont one of the teachers had an annual kite-flying contest. It was great fun to help my boys make their entries. Sometimes they flew well and other times they just barely made the "qualifying flight". They were judged on several levels and criteria. Our school had a nice long "turf" to launch them all. I remember we had several winners including a "flying pizza" and "Ben Franklin's Original Lightening Struck Kite"...complete with skeleton key and burnt hole. We also learned how to be good losers when some didn't make the cut. What fun!

In the book, their annual Afghani contest had to do with specially prepared string that could "cut" other's kite strings and still remain in the air. The last one flying was the winner. The real prize was to bring back the loser's kite as a trophy. Finding that kite in the crowded city streets of Kabul was the real challenge. Hassan had that talent. He had a "sixth-sense" about where it would eventually come down. Now there were bullies in the streets with brass knuckles. Hassan was also extremely loyal and faithful to Amir. He had that fraternal or brotherly love which I have written about in previous posts. The rest I will leave to you to guess or read about.

I am convinced that most of our "troubles" in this world, personally, or nationally, religiously or culturally come from this "lack of love", on a very personal level, starting with ourselves and ending with a lack of "mutual respect" for other's values and ways. We don't want to show it, or know how to show it in an acceptable way. We are inhumane to each other for any number of reasons all stemming from some form of pride or "fear" and "theft" as it is stated in the book. There is only one ultimate "sin"...that of "stealing"...not just things but, a life (murder), a wife (adultry) or "a life" (even one's own) in the lack of loving it and caring for it. This is what I want to work on now. Bob

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Free At Last!

I have not written here for awhile. There have been momentous developments. I have decided, once again, to "retire". Yes, as of today, I resigned my sales counselor postition with Pardee Homes. I have a "good" feeling about it. It was time.

The little guy on your left is my "garden gnome". He's been standing in my office on the window ledge since I started at Aurora and Carina. He is now standing on a shelf in my office book shelves surrounded by some other mementos from my life and careers. He is content there and he symbolizes "contentment" to me at this time. As you can see he is "working in the garden" raking up "something" or spreading "it" around. You can be the judge of that. He, like me, is happy now. He can follow his "bliss" and do some of the things he's been longing to do.

My third grandchild, Soren, and his father and mother are coming out for a visit today. Normally I would have to miss that. Wednesday has been my "Monday" with a "stressful" sales meeting and a "catching up" on all the problematic emails and spins that have collected during my previous two days off. Selling houses was fun but keeping them in escrow was not. Now I get to talk and play with him and read to him and just love and enjoy him. I've missed out on too much of that with all my grandchildren. My own father did too. He died of a stroke at his work at 59 and he didn't even get to see two of his grand kids. His job was too time consuming and he was known for his "work ethic". He would not deligate and stayed long hours of overtime. I did not want this to happen to me too. Stone and Layla, my other two grand kids are coming out next week to "Camp Gramma" which will now be known a "Camp Gramma and PapaBob". I'm looking forward to that. How well do I even know them? How well do they know me? How much love can I give them?

I'm also looking into going back to college. I would like to take courses in writing and music theory and practice. These are two of my prevailing interests and loves. I have much to learn in these areas and I'm happiest when I'm learning and growing. I'm signed up to take a "Workforce Course" at Crafton Hills College a Saturday in April. It is all about "Screenwriting". Who knows? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I went to my CRTA Monthly Luncheon at our local Sizzler this past Monday.(Caif.Retired Teachers Assoc.) That's the first time I've been other than as a performer with our local Barbershoppers. One of the guest speakers was also retired but "acting" as the President of San Jacinto College in Hemet and Murrieta. He talked about the planned satellite campus coming to Banning of all places. It needs a bond issue passed which could be a "fatal hurdle" but I'm totally interested. Bring it on! I could even learn to help others to write and perform music. Now I am dreaming!

We are still on for our Celebrity Cruise of the Greek Isles in May and June. This has been a dream also. They say it is very warm and humid then. We'll see. Yes, we'll experience Rome again, all the ancient ruins, the Adriatic and hundreds of islands, taste exotic cuisines and wines. We'll get to shop in the marketplaces of Istanbul. I can buy another "evil eye" like the one I was given, and broke, from my daughter-in-law. In his "Pillars of Hercules" - a Grand Tour of the Mediterranean- Paul Theroux has a whole section on "the evil eye", the beliefs in these areas and how they are blue...just like her eyes. I'm rereading this book before our trip. It has been a favorite from years ago.

Yes, there are many things to look forward to with my "new freedow". Look out! My poor wife! It is going to be a "new challenge and adjustment" for both of us. We have always had jobs and divergent interests that have "given us blessed breaks" from each other. Now the fun begins again...stay tuned for further reports and developments. Bob!