We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Black Panther

Imbolc                                                                        New Life Moon

Black-Panther-Cast-Marvel-Featured-Image-1024x639Kate took one for the team yesterday. She went to see Black Panther with me. I had two reasons for wanting to see it. One, it’s a Marvel Studio movie and, god help me, I really like them. Most of them. Two, it’s become a cultural sensation and I wanted to see why, if I could. Kate gave me a third reason. To lift my spirits.

Nothing like vibranium theft and lots of gratuitous violence in a movie filled with elegant looking black folk, a few Koreans and a couple of supporting white actors to counter the gray veil. Black Panther, with closing and opening scenes in Oakland, home of the Black Panthers, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, was ok. Not great. Might have been better if I could have heard all the dialogue. Where are my closed captions at the theater?

black-panther-0The plot was less important, I think, than the stage settings and the actors. From Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan to Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira the young black actors were both beautiful and powerful. Forest Whittaker and Angela Basset added gravitas.

It’s an interesting commentary on our global culture when a single movie, made with high production values, can garner so much attention and be hailed as a “defining moment.” For this white male, certainly born to white privilege though of a lesser amount than, say, Donald Trump, it was not a defining moment. It was a decent action movie. It was not, however, blaxploitation, like those 60’s and 70’s movies with mostly black casts. And, I suspect, that contrast gave it some of its power, too.

Did it lift my spirits? Well, it got me to ignore them for a couple of hours. And, I don’t feel as heavy this morning. Maybe it helped. Time, good ol’ time, will tell.

Electric Dreams

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

the little bugger

the little bugger

The new year is 15 days underway. Kate and I have been sick now for a fifth of that. Campylobacter she says. Not life threatening. Not the flu. But damned inconvenient. Big fun.

Last night was a Tony’s Market meal, scallops and salmon patties with twice baked potatoes and Italian roasted vegetables. We’ve decided to cook our own fancy meals, saving literally hundreds of dollars each time. My scallop recipe, which I printed out, was in tiny, tiny print and I had to squint the whole time. Why I did that to myself, I don’t know.

phillip k. dickIf you have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, I can recommend three shows: Black Mirror on Netflix, Humans and Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams on Amazon Prime. All three are science fiction, all dystopian to one degree or another, but each is wonderful.

Of the three, Humans is one I would recommend even to someone who doesn’t like science fiction. It’s powerful. A U.K. version of a Swedish original, it chronicles the gradual integration of synthetic humans into society. Though it could take a single perspective, say the Skynet notion from the Robocop series where the synths (the shorthand used in the series) are evil or at least tend that way, it does not.

Some synths are domestic help, often loved by their owners. Others are industrial models. Some work in restaurants. In some instances synths have begun movement up the occupational ladder, taking more and more responsible jobs, putting mid-level managers out of work. A few, a handful at first, are conscious.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Gallery – Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

As more synths become self-aware, a struggle begins between synths who simply want to integrate into human society and live their lives and those who believe humans will never accept them and must be fought. There is no one attitude among the synths just as their is no one attitude among humans toward synths.

The second season built on a strong first season, expanding the complexity and emotional conflicts developed in season one. I don’t want to describe it more, spoilers are poor form; but, it’s worth your time.

 

Yippee!

Winter                                                                  Moon of the Long Nights

A blur day. Somehow messed up my sleep, felt sleepy in the am. Napped in my chair, then went down to the bed for a nap. No sleep there. Of course. Ruth and Gabe came while Jon went to A-basin to ski. Ruth’s better but her throat’s still sore. Spent most of the day more or less tired or sleepy. No word on Rigel’s x-ray and blood work yet.

Mother's Day, 2016

Mother’s Day, 2016

Jen had to leave Denver to collect the kids. It was her dinner night with them. She communicates with me, so I arranged it with her. She hasn’t driven to Conifer since Mother’s Day of 2016, just before the divorce storm broke over the Olson sky. She got to the driveway, turned her car around pointed toward Black Mountain Drive and waited on the kids to come out. I didn’t see her. Weird.

Finished off an excellent Netflix series, The Travelers, about visitors from centuries ahead of the 21st, as they call this century, trying to avoid a full on catastrophe in the distant future.

Nosedive

Nosedive

Also watched the third episode, Crocodile, in the 4th season of Black Mirror. This is a dystopian sci-fi anthology which has, some critics say, a marked Luddite tendency that doesn’t let up. That may be, but the show is prescient. For example, the first show of the 3rd season, Nosedive, has a near future culture where the ratings from social media determine life options. Look at the recent news about China’s social credit system which, though voluntary now, will become mandatory in 2020. It’s a broadening of the U.S. concept of the FICO score for financial credit to one that has immediate social implications for the individual, too.

The first show of this, the 4th season, U.S.S. Callister, critiques Trekkies and more significantly, gamer culture. Crocodile, which I just watched, is a cleverly constructed story that takes a while to show the implications of a “memory dredger” used to pull up memories as a tool for investigation. Spoiler alert: don’t buy a guinea pig. This material is entertaining, but in a very dark way, hence Black Mirror. Sort of my sweetspot.

I don’t know whether this is peak TV as some claim, suggesting that the money being pumped into new, innovative series and movies can’t be sustained over time, but it is definitely a golden moment for sci-fiction and fantasy. Battlestar Galactica. Lost Girl. The Travelers. The Magicians. All the various Marvel offerings. Black Mirror. Dr. Who continues, now with the first female Time Lord. True Blood. Game of Thrones. Handmaid’s Tale. Dark. All of these have high production values, are high concept and have excellent actors. As a very early fan of Marvel comics and a life long reader of science fiction, I can only say, yippee!

Ofrendaless

Samain                                                               Bare Aspen Moon

spanish cilantro soupSpanish-Cilantro soup, served cold, is delicious. A good starter for a meal. Lots of allium: onion, garlic, leeks. Plus potato and, of course, cilantro. Recommended.

Slept in until 8:30 yesterday. Kate and I have not found ourselves on the road at 10:30 pm very often of late. The moon was full and high, clouds for background, the mountains hulking with only their dark shoulders visible. The traffic was somewhat heavy, probably folks coming back from the first night of Christmas lights at the Botanical Gardens. That was what created the traffic going in, we learned from Marilyn.

So yesterday was slow, a rest day. In the afternoon I took Kate to see Coco. It was better the second time. I even liked the mostly silly Olaf 21 minute short, an extension of the Frozen franchise. This time I noticed how Remember Me dominates the movie as plot point, central theme and as music.

ofrendaThe anthropologist in me got to thinking about ofrenda, the family altars created at Dias de Los Muertos, and prominent in Coco. Similar in purpose to the ancestor tablets in traditional Japanese, Chinese and Korean homes they create a bond with the memories and accomplishments of dead family members, encourage the passing down of stories over generations, help glue together families in the present through the care in creating them and the sense of living a shared narrative. They also reinforce family norms.

They are, too, similar to the yahrzeit in Judaism and the yahrzeit wall at Beth Evergreen, not to mention Samain, the equivalent Celtic holiday celebrated on the same day. Thinking about this made me wonder about the relative disappearance of dead relatives from the homes of European ancestry Christians. There is no moment in the Christian year when the dead are remembered save for All Saints Day and that’s not celebrated by many Protestants. I suppose the idea of heaven and resurrection turn the focus away from the dead and toward the afterlife and eventual resurrection. If we’re all gonna meet up at the end times, why bother with the past.

dadOh, we have our photo albums, our knick knacks, but we too easily slip past the family past to engage career, building our own family, taking care of our own lives. We’re relatively disconnected from our past, from our family. Read this article in the NYT about lonely deaths in Japan. It’s not only beautifully written and illustrated, it shows what happens to a society where declining child birth leaves the elderly alone, ofrendaless.

I point the finger at myself here. I have a small permanent ofrenda, a replica of a Spanish style balcony I bought in Bogota on my first international trip. Its purpose in Colombian culture is to hold photographs, mementos of loved ones. In it I have family photographs, a couple of small U.S. flags for mom and dad’s veteran status. Near it I keep my dad’s old briefcase, his silly animal hat. But really I rarely think of it, rarely return to their memories. Dad and I were estranged at his death, true, but I long ago mellowed on him. Even so, there are no moments during the year when they come to mind, when Aunt Mary and Uncle Charles, Grandma and Grandpa Keaton become the stuff of story and ancestry.

3 generations of our family

3 generations of our family

Good art gets us to reflect on ourselves, our own lives. It may either gently or roughly remind us of things we have neglected, emotions we bury, yearnings we had forgotten. I guess Coco stirred in me a longing for those deeper family connections, a more in this life experience of the Ellis family story. Good and bad it is my story and Joseph’s story, Mary and Mark’s story and now by extension Kate and Jon’s, too. Ruth and Gabe and SeoAh’s as well.

As the holidays begin to accelerate, perhaps this is a good time to ask the question about how we Anglos might learn from our Latino neighbors? Maybe the ancestral traditions of other lands, other peoples, can enrich our own. Help us sing Coco’s song, Remember Me.

 

Coco. See it.

Samain                                                                Bare Aspen Moon

cocoMovie recommendation: Coco. A pixar film. Gabe and I went to see it. I loved this film so much that I’ll certainly buy it when it comes out on DVD and I will go see it again. Something I rarely do.

The story itself is touching. A young boy, Miguel, raised in a family that has banned music, wants to be a musician. He goes searching for a way to play and in the process ends up in the land of the dead over the holiday of Dias de los muertos. He’s searching for his great-great-great grandfather who left his wife to go on the road with his music and never returned. That abandonment is the reason for the family ban on music.

His adventures, accompanied by an engaging Mexican hairless dog, lead him eventually to a surprising revelation about his family history. He is almost trapped in the land of the dead, which he must leave before sunrise on Dias de los muertos or remain there forever. But with the help of his dead family, the very ones pictured on the ofrenda in his home, he makes it back to the land of the living. The end is a hymn to family, to the power of music, to the transformative nature of dreams. I cried.

The cgi in this film is extraordinary, transporting the viewer back and forth between the living and the dead, the past and the present with ease and beauty. The music itself is wonderful, too.

It also reminded me of a deep fascination I have with Mexican culture, its depth and its sense of wonder. Contemporary Mexican culture mixes together indigenous beliefs from such varied backgrounds as the Olmec, the Aztec and the Maya with a Roman Catholic faith transformed by the contact. It layers Spanish culture on top of the various cultures that existed in Mexico. Coco shows all this, not in a heavy handed or obvious way, but doesn’t caricature it, either.

Two small examples. At one point, when it looks as if he will be stuck in the land of dead, Miguel is thrown in what appears to be a hole in the earth with a lake at its bottom. It’s really a cenote of sacrifice, an artifact of Mayan civilization, one I’ve seen at Chichen Itza. Also, in the land of the dead there are colorful winged serpents. Quetzalcoatl is a feathered serpent god in both Aztec and Mayan mythology.

With the growing Latino presence in the U.S. this movie can help us gringos get a sense of their culture well beyond tacos and mariachis. It is a rich, mysterious, wonder-filled culture and Coco is a good ambassador for it.

 

 

Up With Which

Samain                                                                           Bare Aspen Moon

prepositions-timeThe day after the day after. See, there’s the sneaky part of our language. This is the day after the day after Thanksgiving. Yet, really, this is another day, neither after nor before, just a day on its own. Yes, it’s a little further along the third planet’s track around the sun, but it’s a spot on the orbit, so different than yesterday and tomorrow, but no different as a day than either of them save for the slightly less light occasioned by the planet’s tilt, now away from the sun for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

OK. We’ll not flog the old time horse anymore right now. There is a case to be made for chronos, too, but it’s the assumption we share and it obscures other, equally important ways of understanding time.

20171123_142055Anyhow leftover capon, pancetta and fig stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie and caramelized sweet potatoes, pecan pie and deviled eggs rest in the fridge, awaiting their moment. The slow and the stuffed have gotten up off the couches, the beds, the chairs and started to move around again within their lives.

Yesterday (as my mind insists on designating it) I drove down the hill to Aurora. Jon has trees and shrubs on his fenceline that he wants removed. This is something I can do, so I wanted to get exact instructions. He showed me. It won’t take long to do and I plan to go down tomorrow (as my mind insists on designating a day/night cycle we’ll repeat as we return to this spot on our tilt-a-whirl ride of wandering space rock).

Yes, I’m having a little trouble letting go of thoughts about time. It’s just that the prepositional nature of our language is so larded with sequencing words that each time I start to use one, I jerk up short mentally, pulled on the leash of cyclical time. Henry Gustafson, my New Testament professor, talked about writing a prepositional theology. Prepositions and their less common linguistic sibling, postpositions, indicate relations between nouns. “Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions),[1] are a part of speech (class of words) that express spatial or temporal relations (inundertowardsbefore) or mark various semantic roles (offor).” wiki

Ah, well, I’ve learned something here. It is exactly prepositions work in our language to indicate time and place. No wonder I keep bumping against them as the ship of cyclical time tries to stay at the dock and not drift away. We use prepositions because we cannot make sense of our reality without locating things in space or time. In using these words though, we reveal an underlying consensus that, while definitely shared, may well not be accurate. OK. I’m in the weeds again, apparently not yet done with the idea of cyclical time.

TampopoJon, Ruth and Gabe and I went to Katsu Ramen for lunch. It’s close to their house, sort of, and I’ve wanted to eat there for a while. Ramen places are a very typical Japanese restaurant, more common there, I imagine, than sushi ones, because ramen is food for the masses, a sort of fast food. “Tampopo”, a Japanese movie from the mid-1980’s, features two truck drivers who learn how to cook great noodles.

I drove them back and returned to the mountains. Yesterday was a rest day, so I kicked back and watched yet another Marvel TV series. I’m as captivated by them as I was by Marvel Comics when Atlas comics rebranded themselves in 1961 and introduced the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange and the Hulk, among many others. One of my cheesy regrets about my childhood is that I, like most other kids, threw away my early collection of Marvel Comics, not realizing how much an X-Men number 1 would be worth in 2017. Hell, I’m not sure I believed in 2017 back then except as an indefinite location filled with flying cars, rocket ships, interstellar travel, huge skyscrapers and maybe a few aliens.

drStrangeMarvel has expanded its media presence to both movies and television. Spider Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Doctor Strange, Captain America, Iron Man all have at least one movie, some many more than that. Now on television Marvel has pulled off a rather stunning feat, populating streaming services like Netflix and Hulu with original made for television serials featuring many other Marvel characters. Right now you can watch (and I do) Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, the Punisher, the Gifted, the Runaways, the Inhumans, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Defenders and Peggy Carter.

There is a link, which I’m not going to explore right now, between my affection for the Marvel stories and religion. I think they trigger the same impulse, the same capacity for wonder and speculation, just in different idioms.

 

 

 

Igniting the Inner Teenager

Lughnasa                                                                  Eclipse Moon

ChallengerDown the hill at 8 a.m. yesterday to deliver the Rav4 for detailing and air conditioner help. They pay for a rental from Enterprise so I took the shuttle over there. “Is a Challenger, o.k.? Looks like you lucked out.” Yep. Got an all white chunk of Detroit iron, a real muscle car. First time I’ve driven something with a V-8 in a very long time.

It ignited my inner teen ager. I called Kate and asked her if she could find her poodle skirt, “I’ll take you over to Sonic and we’ll cruise the drive-in.” Poodle skirt’s apparently long gone, so I came home and had breakfast.

Pushing the Challenger around the curves on Brook Forest Drive seemed apposite to what it wanted to do. This car begged to have the hammer down on a quarter mile stretch of back country asphalt, a hair band wearing girl jumping up and dropping a handkerchief. It was a clumsy car, typical of what I remember from my dad’s Fords I drove as a kid. Even so, that responsive power, available with a flick of the foot, sure brought back memories.

Tulip FeverKate went in with me to pick up the Rav4. She looked tiny in the Challenger’s passenger seat. A movie and dinner after picking up a cleaned up, cool vehicle.

We saw Tulip Fever, a costume drama, and a reasonably bad one. Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz were excellent, but the overall flow of plot was alternately too fast and too slow. Too, I made a disappointing discovery. I couldn’t hear about a quarter or more of the dialogue. That was no fun. I need to watch movies, especially ones with dialects, tv as well, for that matter, with closed captions. Otherwise I miss a good deal.

Today the rhythm returns to normal. Write, exercise, mussar. Late nights, or my version of late nights these days, Tuesday 9:30 p.m, last night 8:45 p.m., plus days too busy for exercise or writing drain me. No chance to recharge.

Recharge coming up. Starting now.

 

Hello, darkness

Lughnasa                                                        Kate’s Moon

monolith (1)Dark ecology. I’ll post more about this both here and on AncientrailsGreatwheel.com, but it interests me a lot right now. It’s a contrarian view of the climate crisis, but not in a denier vein. These are folks who accept climate science, but take a pessimists look at the likelihood of change, at least change sufficient to stave off disaster. They don’t see it happening. This could be equated to the final stage of the grief process, acceptance.

monolithI’m not familiar enough now with the movement to comment in depth, but the tone of it strikes a chord in me. Admittedly, it’s a melancholy chord though the more you know about both climate science and the current political will to tackle change, the more that chord may come to dominate the melody of your life. It’s either brave, facing reality in spite of its horror, or defeatist. Maybe it’s both.

Whichever it is, it feels like an important approach to climate change at an emotional level and one I want to better understand. If you want a sense of dark ecology’s direction, take a look at this manifesto on the Dark Mountain website.

Krishna Janma

Midsommar                                                                   Most Heat Moon

Krishnas-birth-in-prisonLooking for light in prison. An assignment for the kabbalah class tonight. Rabbi Jamie suggested watching a movie like Hurricane, about Rubin Carter. I thought of MLK and Letters from the Birmingham Jail and Nelson Mandela, too. Then I remembered a portion of the Mahabharata I’d watched. This DVD version, 94 episodes, aired in India in the late 1980’s. Bought it to watch while doing long sessions on the treadmill.

Krishna Janma was episode 11. A prophecy tells Kansa, a king, that his sister Devaki’s eighth son will kill him. At first he looks for the easiest solution. Kill Devaki. Vasudeva, her husband, pleads with Kansa not to kill his sister. “I will bring you each child to destroy.”

Kansa considers this and agrees with a condition. They have to live in chains in his dungeon. Six sons are born. Kansa comes in their cell after each birth, grabs the newborn and throws it against the wall. When the seventh son is born, a friend of Devaki’s visits her in the cell and takes her pregnancy as her own. This causes Kansa great consternation but he can’t do anything since the seventh pregnancy seems to have mysteriously ended.

krishnaFinally, nine years later, Devaki is pregnant again, this time with the eighth son Kansa dreaded. This son is Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu.

“Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases I send myself forth.
For the protection of the good and for the destruction of evil,
and for the establishment of righteousness,
I come into being age after age.”

— Bhagavad Gita 4.7–8

Happy-Janmashtami-Images-Wishes-Quotes-SMS-Status-Greetings-09

When Devaki gives birth to Krishna, a light shines in the cell and a voice, presumably Vishnu, tells Vasudeva to take baby Krishna out of the dungeon to another couple. Vasudeva wonders how he can accomplish this but the dungeon’s many barred doors swing open, the guards are put asleep and he walks out into a raging storm with his eighth son held over his head.

Krishna Janmashtami is a Hindu holiday that celebrates Krishna’s birth. It’s a lunar holiday so the date changes from year to year, but this year Janmashtami is on August 14th.

“Do You Remember Your Childhood?”

Beltane                                                                      Moon of the Summer Solstice

311 E. Monroe. We lived here until I was 12.

311 E. Monroe. We lived here until I was 12.

Took Ruth and Gabe to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Turns out I have a middle school aesthetic when it comes to certain sci fi flicks. We had a great time as Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord saved the Galaxy. Again. The best time though was afterward while we waited for Jon and Kate at Sushi Win in Evergreen.

Gabe looked at me, serious, “Do you remember your childhood?” I know, I thought. It was soooo long ago. Might have slipped away by now. “Yes. I do.” “Could you tell some stories?” OMG. The quintessential old man of the mountain moment. Speak to me of times long past.

milkmanSo I told them both about the horse drawn wagon that delivered our milk. “We had insulated boxes on the front porch and the milkman would run up with a wire carrier that held the milk, cream, butter, whatever. While he delivered to the house next door, the horse would pull the cart in front our house so he could be more efficient in his work. Horses are smart; trucks aren’t.” Of course, this last statement may not stand much longer, but that’s what happens when time passes. The expression on their faces was priceless.

What else, Grandpop?

Kick.the_.can_.cover_“Well, there were about 25 kids my age on my block and we played together almost every night, especially in the summer. We’d play kick the can, hide and seek.”

Ruth asked, “What’s kick the can? Is it like soccer?”

“No, more like hide and seek. You have two teams, one hides and the other guards the can. Then you run around and try to kick the can if you’re on the team that hides.”

“Oh,” she said, “That sounds like fun.”

And it was. “We also threw rocks up in the air and watched the bats follow them down.”

As I went to bed last night, I thought about other stuff. The hill. The field. Collecting pop bottles in a wagon and taking them downtown to Cox’s Supermarket for refunds. Yes, I remember my childhood.

 

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