Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.20

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I ran across this lil gem…

“Cynicism can actually be damaging to one’s heart, according to the National Institute of Health. A study previously published by the agency’s National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that cynical, hostile attitudes toward others can be connected to cardiovascular disease”.

I’m so screwed 👀.

 

 

“Speak softly & carry a big stick”. That’s a philosophy famously promoted by President Theodore Roosevelt, and I believe it’s a good rule of thumb. Unfortunately, with social media nowadays it’s really easy for people to not speak softly. In The Godfather Michael Corleone instructs his younger brother Fredo to “never let anyone outside The Family know what you are thinking”, which is another excellent maxim we should follow, but of course we don’t because there are just so many ways to let everyone know exactly what we think about any subject imaginable. I mention all of this because I see some common themes pop up amongst several of my female friends out there in cyberspace. Many of them are divorced and have been screwed over in one way or another. They talk about “reclaiming their power”, being fierce, & “straightening each others’ crowns”. They use terms like “gaslighting”, “my truth”, “mansplaining”, “self care”, “empowerment”, “patriarchy”, “narcissist”, “toxic masculinity”, & “lovebombing”. They’re really into being independent, strong, no longer staying quiet or falling in line with societal expectations, and being bold & fearless. Most are really liberal and all about being “woke”. Look, I’m not saying any of that is necessarily bad, and to be honest I prefer strong, intelligent, independent women. I am simply opining that constantly talking in those terms feels a bit disingenuous, as if a scared child is trying to psych herself into facing a difficult situation but not really believing in themselves. It also seems like such women kind of hate men, and as a man why would I possibly want to become involved on any level with someone who hates me?? I think most of us can agree that the old-fashioned notion of women staying home, being barefoot & pregnant, doing all the housework & taking care of the kids 24/7, and being submissive to their man is no longer appropriate, if it ever was in the first place. I would love to find a wife, and I would like that person to be my equal, my helpmate, my partner, strong, intelligent, and even a badass. But I’m not sure I could deal with someone who expects me to “check my privilege” (whatever the hell that means) and walk on eggshells in fear of offending her at every turn. Many of the ladies I see embracing these ideas are beautiful, successful, & strong. They are great mothers and fantastic people. They already embody the passion, courage, & tenacity they seem to desire so badly. Why would such a lovely & valuable treasure intentionally present themselves as unapproachable & morose??

 

 

Earlier this year I started binge watching The Office. I loved it. I enjoyed the Jim & Pam romance and fixated on Jim as my favorite character. Then stuff happened. You don’t need to know the details, but suffice to say I cannot bring myself to finish watching the series, and I freakin’ despise Jim Halpert. I’d run over that sonofabitch with my truck. Life is funny. Maddening, frustrating, & depressing…but funny.

 

 

So…do I believe there was all sorts of chicanery involved in the 2020 Presidential Election?? Hell yes. I’m not much on conspiracy theories, but I have zero doubt that The Left’s virulent hatred for President Trump led them to hatch a nefarious plot a few years ago, a plan they executed well enough. How did the global pandemic play into it?? I’m not sure. Was it simply a convenient disaster that they were smart enough to take advantage of…or is the truth even more sinister?? Who knows?? We’ll probably never get the real story, and I’m not the kind of person who will lose sleep or drive myself mad focusing on the whole deal. I’m certainly not the protest/riot type. I will just continue to quietly go about my business and lead my boring little life, enjoying what I can when I am able to do so. I certainly have some thoughts about America’s future under a new administration. Perhaps I’ll express those opinions…or maybe I won’t. Let’s just say that I have some level of concern about what is going to happen, but I don’t feel like it would be wise or productive to dwell in a place of negativity. My faith is bigger than my politics, and I have learned to embrace a “one day at a time” mindset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dandelion Wine

This is the first of several books by author Ray Bradbury that you will see here eventually (remember, I am way too undisciplined to give any kind of time frame or promise a schedule). I have to give a shout out to my friend The Owl for introducing me to Bradbury in college. I would love to be able to say that I am one of the many who enjoyed his stories from a young age, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. I vaguely recall a TV show called The Ray Bradbury Theater back in the 80’s, but at the time it didn’t seem like something that would frost my cupcake. I don’t think I developed good taste in much of anything…literature, food, music, movies…until I was a young adult. We lost Mr. Bradbury earlier this year, and I was struck by how profoundly his passing affected me. I wish I would have “gotten the memo” about his stuff when I was a kid, but I guess it is better to be late to the party than to miss it altogether. The great thing about authors (and I suppose any artist…actors, musicians, etc.) is that we can enjoy the fruits of their talent long after they themselves have left this mortal coil.

 

As the weather becomes blustery and we break out the fleece & turn on the furnaces, I want to turn back the clock just a little bit. I am not a fan of cold weather and think the only good things about autumn & winter are football, Christmas, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Other than those few exceptions I would prefer a perpetual state of warmth & sunshine. At any rate, Dandelion Wine is Bradbury’s ode to summer.

 

Originally written as disparate short stories, they share enough common threads to be strung together into one congruent novel. The main characters are 12 year old Douglas Spaulding (based on Bradbury himself) and his 10 year old brother Tom. The setting is Green Town, IL, loosely based on Bradbury’s recollections of his boyhood hometown of Waukegan, IL (40 miles north of Chicago). Green Town has sort of a Mayberry feel to it, with just a tinge of mysticism & fantasy thrown into the mix. We are introduced to a variety of the boys’ family, neighbors, and townsfolk, but generally see things thru the eyes of the two youngsters. The summer depicted is 1928…a simpler, more bucolic time to be sure. The small town, the prism of childhood, the assumption of a more peaceful era…all combine to make this a fun, nostalgic, & easy read. The infinitesimal elements of what I suppose might pass as sci-fi or horror are non-intrusive, but enough to keep things interesting. Bradbury’s lyrical prose makes humble traditions of summertime…sitting on the front porch swing, eating ice cream, mowing grass, and enjoying Grandma’s cooking…seem monumentally important, which of course they are to a child. The boys are occasionally confronted with heavy issues like death, illness, fear, and the loss of a best friend to relocation, and Douglas is a deep thinker who waxes philosophical about life, but even the chapters that deal with these melancholy subjects retain a light tone. The stories are realistic enough to induce wistful remembrances of a bygone era, yet fantastical enough to sweep the reader away to the land of make believe.

 

I have always had a tendency to remember my own childhood as being far more idyllic than it likely was in reality, which is probably why I really like Dandelion Wine. Bradbury leans toward the sentimental, which is just fine by me. In our modern age of violence, callousness, and immorality it is nice to atleast pretend that it wasn’t always this way. Dandelion Wine may not belong in the same conversation as the greatest works of literature, and it probably isn’t even Bradbury’s best effort, but it is immensely enjoyable and a nice way to spend a couple of afternoons.

 

 

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…..#3

Society has a penchant for wanting everything to fit into its own neat little box. It makes life so much easier to define. This is as true for movies as anything, where we want to be able to compartmentalize films into cut & dried genres like comedy, action, western, horror, or drama. On occasion we’ll grudgingly submit to a special sub-category like family, sci-fi, Christmas, romantic comedy, thriller, or disaster epic. But what if a film simply refuses to be defined?? What if it cannot be shoehorned, pigeonholed, or painted with such a narrow perspective?? Such films are a rarity, and can be either an unmitigated disaster or particularly sublime.

 

I have seen today’s subject be classified as fantasy, which isn’t really a bad definition but doesn’t fit all that well either. Drama is accurate but does not come close to really capturing its essence. Many would call it a sports film but I think that is kind of like calling Abraham Lincoln a politician or The Louvre a museum…not untrue but certainly an epic oversimplification. It is, above all other 99 movies listed, the one that I think to myself “I wish I would have written that”.

 

There is creativity, and then there are ideas so singular that one just has to applaud the creator and simply say “Well done sir”. Such is the case with our #3 film, one that loses out on the top two spots by a nudge simply because it is another seasonal favorite. Surprisingly this time it isn’t a Christmas classic. Instead it is one I prefer to watch when the sun is bathing the Manoverse with warmth, birds are chirping their harmonious song, and the smell of freshly cut grass is trumped only by the sweet aroma of steak, hot dogs, and BBQ being cooked over an open flame. This is a film I can enjoy anytime, but prefer to watch in the summer, and more specifically, during baseball season.

 

Imagine this…

It is the late 1980’s and you are a fat cat movie suit. You have a meeting where an idea is pitched about a middle-aged former flower child who’s now an Iowa farmer that hears a voice tell him to plow his corn and build a baseball field so Shoeless Joe Jackson can come back to play and JD Salinger can write about the whole thing. I’m not sure what’s crazier…that the movie was greenlit or that it turned out to be such an awesome masterpiece.

 

1989’s Field of Dreams stars Kevin Costner as that hippie/farmer/crazy dude, and James Earl Jones as the reclusive writer obviously based on Salinger. It was Costner’s second foray into the world of baseball, immediately following 1988’s Bull Durham (which ranks 17th on this list). The movie is based on a novel called Shoeless Joe, which I must admit I have not yet read therefore I cannot compare with any veracity the book & the movie. But when talking about Field of Dreams I sincerely believe there is one very important point that must be made: it is not about baseball.

 

As I write this I just happen to also be reading an anthology of stories by author Ray Bradbury, and it occurs to me that Field of Dreams could have easily been a Bradbury tale. It is a shamelessly sentimental flight of fancy, soaked in nostalgia with baseball utilized as a metaphor for life. Some of the more sober among us might look at such a film with derision, calling it melodramatic and maudlin, but I am a huge sucker for whimsically capricious stories and wish there were more of them produced. Too many movies are either dumbed down, anvilicious crapfests that anyone with a brain can figure out within 10 minutes or just completely pointless. And then of course there are the movies that spend quality time on the ride but reach the destination leaving the audience either confused or just unimpressed. Field of Dreams is none of these.

 

Costner is at his best here…better than Bull Durham, better than Tin Cup, and certainly better than Wyatt Earp, Waterworld, or Dances with Wolves. My favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart, would have been a fantastic choice to play Ray Kinsella if this film were made in 1949, but forty years onward a Stewart-esque Everyman performance suffices quite nicely. James Earl Jones adds the perfect level of gravitas as Terence Mann, a writer who inspired the 60’s counterculture by talking about “love, peace, and understanding” and was “a voice of reason during a time of great madness”. The novel used notoriously reclusive Catcher in the Rye raconteur JD Salinger, but obviously the role had to be fictionalized for the movie. Ray Liotta plays Shoeless Joe Jackson just one year before he would become a star in Goodfellas. And for me the real clincher, the part of the movie that takes it to a higher level, is a cameo by the legendary Burt Lancaster in what I believe was his last film. Time travel is almost always a cool device, and the way it is done here…long after one thinks they know where the story is headed…is subtle, surprising, and superb.

 

Field of Dreams has been voted in many polls as one of the top five sports movies of all time, and that’s fine. But it is not just a baseball movie. Field of Dreams is about regret. It is about redemption. It is about family. It is about happiness and realizing what that truly means. Would we grab one more shot at our dream like young Moonlight Graham, or, like the older Doc Graham, understand that the path we’ve taken fulfilled a more important destiny?? How great would it be to be Terence Mann and have a chance to undue all the damage decades of world weariness, skepticism, cynicism, and bitterness can do to the soul?? How many among us have, like Shoeless Joe, been (ostensibly) falsely accused or had something we truly loved taken away and only then learned to appreciate it?? Am I a bit effusive in my praise?? Probably. But while I love sports films as much as the next guy, I think the biggest reason I have such affection for Field of Dreams is because it goes so much deeper than the typical cliches, and in fact avoids most of them. It is a film than cannot really be compared to any other, even the plethora out there with baseball as a key element.

 

I think it makes sense to conclude with…well…the conclusion. I always say that only four films have ever made me cry. E.T. made me cry when I saw it in the theater, but I was a little kid so I’m not sure if that even counts. The Passion of the Christ brought tears, and that is self-explanatory. The 2008 Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston flick Marley & Me was supposed to be a comedy, but at the end I found myself clutching my beautiful puppy in my arms and bawling like a baby, which is why I have vowed never to watch it again. Fellow dog owners will understand. And then there is Field of Dreams. In the archives here at The Manofesto one can find my 35 Undeniable Truths of Life. #12 states that “anyone who doesn’t shed a tear during the last 10 minutes of Field of Dreams doesn’t have a heart”. I stand by that. In 20 years I have seen this movie countless times, and every single time that final scene gets me. I lost my Mom 11 years ago, and I miss her every day. There is nothing I wouldn’t give for one more conversation with her. My Dad is still around. He lives close by and I see him often and talk to him every day. As strange as it may seem to some, Field of Dreams, atleast on a subconscious level, has affected our relationship, because I never want to be haunted by unkind words or things left unsaid. Redemption is a wonderful thing, but even better is never having to be burdened by guilt in the first place.