Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.13

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

Word on the street is that Harrison Ford is in for the Star Wars sequels. That’s good news. I can’t imagine that Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill wouldn’t be up for it as well. Surprisingly I’ve never read any of the dozens of Star Wars books but I can imagine that the new sequels will pick up three decades after Return of the Jedi and the focus would be on the offspring of our legendaryHarrison-Ford-e1352170502217 triumvirate. I assume Han Solo & Princess Leia got married, had a couple kids, and now hold elder statesmen roles within The New Republic. Luke Skywalker is a Jedi master…kind of the new Obi-wan Kenobi…got married, and had a few children as well. Darth Vader is obviously dead so we’ll see a new bad guy. The key question is which actors & actresses will be cast as the new generation. I hope director JJ Abrams goes for good actors versus movie stars…there is a difference. This new trilogy has to be a cut above the mindless action rubbish that the movie going public has become anesthetized by. Star Wars deserves better. I pray that Abrams stays away from people like Shia LaBeouf, Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, and…God help us…Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez. There are decent young performers out there that could bring a level of gravitas to the story…folks like Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley, Emile Hirsch, Hunter Parrish, Josh Hutcherson, and Kate Mara. Abrams did an excellent job in casting the Star Trek reboot so I trust that he will do the same for Star Wars.

 

So I guess the new trend is to equate gay rights with civil rights and homosexuals with other minorities. I could go into a long diatribe about my particular feelings on the issue, but I will refrain. Suffice to say that I disagree ashamedwith the philosophy and think that women & blacks…who fought long & hard for equal rights and still must to a certain degree…should be immensely offended about the equivocation. That doesn’t mean that those who choose a particular lifestyle should be made to endure discrimination & abuse because at the end of the day we should all be about human rights and stop trying to divide & conquer, but it does mean that some people need to stop demanding to be celebrated or given special treatment for their choices.

 

I love Al Pacino. He is one of the finest actors to ever grace a stage, TV screen, or movie set. But what is the deal with him doing all these biopics of Al_Pacino (1)controversial dudes?? First he played “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian for HBO in 2010. Then came word that he will be playing Joe Paterno in a future film. And now he’s playing wildhaired music producer & convicted murderer Phil Spector…again for HBO. I don’t know…these kinds of roles just somehow seem beneath a performer the caliber of Pacino.

 

Conversely…..

I hear that Robin Williams is headed back to TV in a new sitcom. Now THAT is something to be excited about!!

 

Speaking of civil rights…..

I recently saw an ad on TV for a dating site called BlackPeopleMeet.com. I must admit that I was somewhat taken aback at first until I gave it some thought. Upon further ponderation I recalled that there is still an NAACP, a Congressional Black Caucus, and black colleges (well okay…now they say predominantly or historically black colleges) like Grambling, Howard, & Southern University, all of which were necessary at one time but seem dr-martin-luther-king-jrsomewhat anachronistic now. I was born way after the civil rights era of the 60’s with Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus & Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the fight for justice & freedom. However, it strikes me as odd that a group of folks whose forefathers fought so hard for and in some cases gave their lives for equality & integration continue to willingly segregate themselves on some level. If I started any kind of exclusive “whites only” organization in 2013 I would immediately be labeled a racist and be (rightly so) ostracized, belittled, & condemned. It seems like that’s a one way street though. Dr. King expressed faith that one day we would all be able to “work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together” and hope that “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing”. I am not sure how BlackPeopleMeet.com helps achieve that goal.

 

I have discovered a new hobby. Events like The Super Bowl & The Grammys…among others…are much more entertaining if I utilize Twitter to express my smartass thoughts the entire time. I am actually looking forward to The Oscars for the first time in…well…ever.

 

I didn’t watch Obama’s State of the Union because I would rather stick my head in a pizza oven for an hour than hear that man spew his nonsense, but I hear that he wants to raise the minimum wage. That’s a nice idea in theory, but I wonder about the unintended negative consequences. What good does raising wages do when prices seem to rise correspondingly?? How many moneypeople would lose jobs and how many small businesses would go under?? Why are we concentrating on artificially raising the lowest standard instead of increasing opportunities for better jobs?? Will more people just end up on government assistance?? What about the people already making $10-15/hr….will their wages increase?? I am not an economist and I’m not really in the mood to get into anything in depth at the moment, but these are questions that need to be addressed & answered.

 

 

 

 

Stephen King’s 11/22/63

I’m not really a Stephen King kind of guy. I have nothing against one of the 20th century’s foremost authors, and greatly respect the fact that he has sold more than 300 million books & had his work adapted into more than three dozen feature films, numerous TV movies, and even plays & comic books. It’s just that I’m not a big fan of the horror/suspense genre. Until now the only King book I’d ever read was Christine (about a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury) when I was probably 13 or 14 years old. I’ve seen bits & pieces of movies like Stand By Me, Misery, Carrie, & The Shining, and found the 1996 adaptation of Thinner creepy in a good way. I had absolutely no clue that The Shawshank Redemption (a splendid film) was based on a King novella until years after I’d first seen it.

 

This lack of any meaningful history or connection with Stephen King’s work was why I found it odd when I decided not all that long ago to place his latest novel, 11/22/63, in my Amazon shopping cart.

 

I knew from the outset that 11/22/63 had three things going for it. First, it is not a traditional horror story of the ilk that made Stephen King a household name. It’s more of a fantasy with a little bit of history thrown into the mix. Second, the assassination of JFK serves as a major plot point. I was not yet born when Camelot was beguiling the nation and Kennedy’s death rocked it to its core, but it is just one of those stories, like the Titanic or The Civil War, which continues to fascinate generations of people centuries after the event itself. And finally, a key element of 11/22/63 is time travel, and time travel is almost always a very cool literary device. Those three things convinced me to give the book a whirl, and after reading it I am very seriously considering going back in time myself and giving the rest of King’s novels a looksee.

 

One of the most beloved time travel adventures…from my generation anyway…is the 1980’s Back to the Future film trilogy. But the adventures of Marty McFly & Doc Brown were child’s play compared to the intricacies of this story. King takes the concept a step further by giving us rules. First of all, the main character, a 30-something Maine high school English teacher named Jake, can only go back to a particular point…specifically September 9, 1958. Secondly, whatever Jake changes when he goes back in time will be reset to its original outcome if he comes back to present day and then goes back thru the “rabbit hole” into the past again. These rules are very important to  keep in mind.

 

Jake is introduced to this time portal by Al, the elderly owner of a local diner. Al discovered this path to the past several years ago in the back of his eatery’s pantry, and has made several trips to what Jake eventually comes to refer to as the Land of Ago. No one in modern day Maine knows this because every time the traveler comes back only 2 minutes have passed in the present. At some point Al became obsessed with the idea of stopping the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but has concluded that he will not be able to complete the mission because he is quickly dying from lung cancer. So he wants Jake to do it. Al believes that if JFK had lived and Lyndon Johnson not become President other significant events might not have occurred. The Vietnam War…and the deaths of millions of American soldiers…would not have happened. Martin Luther King Jr. would have lived. Bobby Kennedy would have lived. Basically the whole path to hell that the United States seemed to take in the 60’s would have been prevented.

 

Surprisingly Jake agrees to do this crazy thing, but he wants to kick the tires a bit first. Going back to 1958 Jake becomes George and just has to hang out for a few weeks…long enough to prevent the mass murder of almost an entire family by their drunken husband/father on Halloween night. Jake/George knows about the situation because the only survivor of the massacre is the high school janitor who wrote an essay about it in a GED class Jake teaches. This subplot takes up about the first quarter of the book and might actually be the stronger portion. At any rate, Jake/George quickly learns firsthand something that Al taught him, something that becomes an ongoing theme…the past is obdurate and does not want to be changed. He runs into roadblocks that Marty McFly could never have even dreamed of. I will not reveal the outcome of the mission, but suffice to say that, despite the past actively fighting against change, Jake/George becomes comfortable enough with the whole idea that once he comes back to modern day he does not hesitate to again go back in time to pursue Lee Harvey Oswald.

 

And that is the meat of the plot. Once Jake/George is back in the Land of Ago for the second time he must hang out for 5 years until the events of that fall of 1963 begin to unfold. This is not really a hardship, as he begins to enjoy a time when the root beer tasted better, the cars were far cooler, and life was quieter & lived at a slower pace. He moves to a small burb outside of Dallas. He makes friends. He gets a job at the local high school. He stalks Oswald’s every move to make sure that he really did act alone and that none of the plethora of conspiracy theories are true. He makes a boatload of cash by betting on sports events of which he already knows the outcome. And he falls in love with the young & beautiful Sadie, the school’s librarian.

 

It is these last two things that gets Jake/George into trouble, complicates his life, and compromises the outcome of his mission. The past is indeed obdurate and does not want to be changed.

 

Does Jake/George prevent Oswald from blowing Kennedy’s brains out?? Does this make 21st century America a better place?? Does Jake/George come back to modern day Maine and resume his life, or does he decide to stay in the Land of Ago with the love of his life?? These are questions I will not answer. You’ll have to read the book.

 

At over 800 pages I must admit that King probably could have tightened things up a bit and trimmed atleast a hundred pages or so, but it’s a small nit to pick. 11/22/63 is an engrossing read. It is thought provoking, well written, and quite possibly one of the finest time travel yarns ever told. I read somewhere that a movie has already been given the greenlight under the capable direction of Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia). But unfortunately I know how these things go. With such a big novel they’ll end up eliminating whole characters & subplots, robbing the story of its rich nuance and depth. Ah well…that’s Hollywood. At any rate, no matter how much the Left Coasters end up butchering the story on the big screen, we’ll still have the book. And that’s not a bad deal.