I’m Back From Thailand


I’m Still In Thailand, So Here’s An Episode Of ‘Flash Gordon’

My Whole Life Has Been Building Up To This; My Life Will Always Be This

I am able to buy cheap movie tickets through work and I was buying a few to see Sicario with my better half.

While making change, I talked to a co-worker about what I was going to see and I noted that, while I did want to see Sicario, really there wasn’t anything that deeply excited me and, when you got right down to it, I was just waiting for Star Wars.

And then it hit me. My whole life, since first seeing Star Wars in 1977, has been about waiting for Star Wars. And it will continue to be about that for as long as I live.

Sean Connery Reads Constantin Cavafy

Old & New Star Trek

I watched Star Trek: Nemesis last night, the last of the Next Generation movies. It wasn’t a great movie (First Contact, however, was), but just before the credits started to roll, that music came on. You know it. Bright, hopeful, adventurous. The classic theme.

The new ones can’t compete. The miss what made the original series and its (best) subsequent movies iconic, as well as the joys of the Next Generation.

I was talking about this with a friend. Or, rather, I was complaining how the reboot’s version of Kirk gaming the Kobayashi Maru scenario missed the point that was made in (the real) Wrath of Khan (which was about fear of failure, but also a refusal to accept a no-win scenario, as well as the conflict between Kirk’s need to save everyone and Spock’s final statement, ‘The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few… or the one;’ in the reboot, it was just about Kirk being a snot nosed brat).

My friend made an excellent point: Chris Pine wasn’t playing Kirk in the two new movies; he was playing late period William Shatner was a young man.

Shatner has aged into a figure of good humored mockery, but as Kirk, he wasn’t that Shatner. You understood why he was the captain and what made him a good commander. When Chris Pine’s Kirk gets Spock riled up to show that he, not Spock, should be the captain, all it really showed (to me) was that sometimes the new Spock could be almost as much of a horse’s ass as the new Kirk was all the time.

Even a flawed film like Nemesis still had Jean-Luc Picard and the smiling, winking gravitas of Patrick Stewart, who understood what it mean to be in the Star Trek universe.

Whiskey, Cocktails, And My Dinner With Andre

A few weeks ago, three of us went to Breugger’s, a sort of fancy, craft cocktail kind ‘o place near my home. I forget exactly what I ordered (though I recall having my pronunciation corrected by the waiter), but it was after I finished that I decided to give up on cocktails.

We’re not talking about walking away from having a mojito on vacation on a hot summer day, but no more drinks that take perfectly good liquor and sweeten it up for someone else’s palate.

Later that evening, I ordered myself a glass (neat) of decently aged MacCallan. After one sip, I wondered what I had been thinking before. For the same price of an overpriced cocktail, here I was enjoying the taste of fine scotch.

For my birthday, my better half took me out to a nice restaurant near Union Station. Whenever I go out to a nice restaurant and can safely indulge in several courses and end with some sort of digestif, whether espresso, brandy, whiskey, port, or the like, I always think about My Dinner with Andre.

The titular Andre (Andre Gregory) died not too many years ago (just one or two). I never saw him much else, except a filmed staging of Uncle Vanya called Vanya on 42nd Street, which, incidentally, also featured Wallace Shawn.

Anyway, rarely has two men eating dinner been so riveting. Of course, it’s also frustrating. As a viewer, I find myself in Shawn’s skeptical camp. Also, his more financially struggling camp. Gregory’s comparative wealth gives him options to indulge in mysticism and contemplation not available to the forever struggling playwright and sometimes actor. But what a movie. And the food always sounds delicious, without being obtrusive within the ‘story.’

Midweek Staff Meeting – I Would Like A Sword, Please

Screenshot_2015-08-17_12.54.53.0If you live in Chicago and you are not taking these classes in medieval/renaissance longsword fighting and you are not prevented from taking these classes by some combination of crippling poverty and unforeseen amputations, then I have no respect for you.

How was it that Ralph Waldo Emerson, a champion of the unique power of poetry, failed to make his own, banal poetry soar half so well as his prose?

Heidegger, or else, the Heideggerians. But who are they?

The end of an era.

Romantic Wuxia

For some reason, I’ve been into the more romantic martial arts films on Netflix these days. I’m acting like it’s somehow surprising. I love a good wuxia and I’m a romantic at heart. House of Flying Daggers and The White Haired Witch made me teary and I’ve been looking for more like them (and don’t tell me Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; yes, I’ve seen it and I’m trying to look for something new; I tried 14 Blades, but  while I give Donnie Yen an amazing amount of credit for looking like that at age 52, he’s not the romantic type).

They’re all silly, of course, but I’m an opera fan and a sad (someone always dies in the really good ones) kung fu film is more like opera than it is like a Lethal Weapon movie. Grand, sweeping, melodramatic statements of overwhelming emotion delivered via medium outside of the standard romantic medium. The plots are silly, but that’s missing the point. If the plots of La Boheme or Madam Butterfly were explained in prose, you’d groan in embarrassment, but even a half decent production of either will make you sob if you have any soul (I recently saw a quintessentially mediocre La Boheme and I still sobbed when Mimi was dying).

Feel free to pass on any suggestions.

‘The End Of The Tour’

A friend and I saw it at the E Street Cinema in downtown (by the way, thank you for taking over the briefly defunct West End Cinema; that was a great place and I hope you keep its DIY, underground aesthetic).

Naturally, before the movie, we talked about David Foster Wallace. I’d read Infinite Jest when it first came out, mostly while working the graveyard shift at a gas station. Later, I read the essays in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. A couple of essays published in magazines that I cam across, but that was it for my Wallace reading. And, of course, he had a big influence. But.

I told my friend that I still occasionally picked up A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, but it that exactly true? When was the last time I did that? A year? A decade?

He had such a powerful impact on the psyche, but he wasn’t someone I went back to. Certainly, I’m unlikely to read Infinite Jest again, as much because of the time commitment as anything else. But, then again, I’m re-reading Proust. In terms of word count, that’s a bigger commitment.

I’m not sure that Wallace is a ‘young man’s writer,’ but it seems that’s what he was for me.

On another note, the movie has a nice My Dinner with Andre quality, though not half as awesome as My Dinner with Andre because that movie never gets old (rest in peace, Andre Gregory).

Bridge Over The River Kwae

Actually, I learned that it should be pronounced ‘Kwae’ or ‘Kway.’ A ‘kwai’ is not a river, but a water buffalo. Apparently.

the actual bridge over the Kwae River

Good looking people on the  bridge
Good looking people on the bridge

a famous 'wat' or temple near the bridge
a famous ‘wat’ or temple near the bridge
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A venerable monk sits in front of the mummified body of a famed, centuries old holy monk (I sought advice before taking this picture to make sure it wouldn't be inappropriate)
A venerable monk sits in front of the mummified body of a famed, centuries old holy monk (I sought advice before taking this picture to make sure it wouldn’t be inappropriate)

One of three cemeteries containing the bodies of the Commonwealth (including Australian) and Dutch soldiers who died constructing the bridge. Many were clearly young because the messages on the headstones were rarely from wives, but from parents, because they were too young to have even gotten married.

A bunch of swords on display in a nearby museum
A bunch of swords on display in a nearby museum