Monday November 4, 2019

‘Comes a time in your life where, as in Desiderata, you surrender the things of your youth as gracefully as you can: your appearance, your shape, your ability to be as resilient and as flexible as you once might have been and of course, memory.

With all the flack I have received about detailing the events of my life and funny anecdotes throughout the course of my life in this webspace, one thing is clear: the documentation and archive serve a purpose. It’s my electronic footprint. A touchstone to my past experience. My perception in long-form.

Without this imprint – my memory of certain things and the musings of those memories – some of this stuff might be lost forever.

I dread. I shudder to think. The head, brain, and mind that once was a sponge starts relieving itself like an oversaturate sponge, squeezed into a drain. The body, once resilient and flexible, not so much anymore. Moving slower than before. This hurts. That hurts. All the time.

It’s happening.

All those things of youth, like 57, slipping away.

Your instrument wearing out. Slowly. Over time.

The passing of my father, my aunt, my brother-in-law, and now my brother proving the tenuous binds of existence on this mortal plain bend and then break entirely until we cease to exist here someday.

Morbid? Macabre? Unthinkable? And yet it happens.

Then you run into someone – who at 95 – shakes hands like a 20-year-old. Conscious, cognizant, lucid, cogent, smiling, happy, free.

And you wonder.

What’s the secret? Where’s the justice? How is that attainable in some lives and not in others?

That commercial of that old guy in the pool with the fisherman’s hat and the two girls giggling where he gets up out of the water and tosses his hat and he’s this fifty-plus year old with a shock of white hair and a toned, muscular body. And the girls stop laughing and take notice.

Really?

That commercial is a gross oversimplification of how all men would like to age. Keeping their masculinity and virility intact. And the fact that it’s a commercial for a product you ingest to accelerate your normal exercising activities or supplement your diet is a dubious distinction at best. You cannot slow down the hands of time by taking a pill.

Eventually, time catches up to everybody.

Except that 95 year old who shakes hands like a 20-year-old and is clear of thought, not feeble or frail and still mows lawns, eats what he enjoys, drives regularly, goes on nature walks and takes trips, dances even, perhaps. The guy who can hold down a conversation like nobody’s business.

That’s the guy you want to be.

Ninety-five is a good run and that guy’s still going strong.

By all outward appearances.

So when you encounter conversations with people who can’t or won’t recount the details of a single solitary event or experience with any clarity or precision in their twenties or thirties – because it simply wasn’t that important to them to actually remember, what do you do?

When you encounter a person who you know may not be able to do what they were once physically or mentally able to do, what do you do?

When you notice the details of your own life and experience slipping away or you seriously have a story to tell, a specific thing you’d like to remember for posterity’s sake or for its own sake, and you can’t remember, what do you do?

How about when you notice you’re like Uncle Joe (on Petticoat Junction) and, “movin’ kinda slow”?

What do you do?

Grow old as gracefully as you can, I guess.

It’s inevitable. Time gets shorter and shorter. Days are long. Years are fast. When you’re over the hill, you pick up speed.

You simply grow as gracefully older as you possibly can. (If you’re lucky enough to do so.)

God willing and the crick don’t rise.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 690ish. Post # 1264

Saturday October 5, 2019

I saw this thing on t.v. the other day about describing people closest to you in three words. A daunting task for anyone, right? How do you do such a thing at a memorial? When clearly we are so much more than just three words. So much more.

Excess. Inappropriate. External. That’s not Steve. No one would ever use those words to describe him. He was the opposite of excess, inappropriate and external.

Rather, temperance, appropriate and internal. That was my brother. But he was so much more. So much.

In between my brother’s passing and the final viewing with Ilona a week ago Wednesday, the 25th, (my brother-in-law John’s birthday whom we lost 6 years ago) and today I was sitting around contemplating life. My life. Steve’s life. John’s life. My Dad’s life. Life in general. We do this – I think – when those we are closest to pass. We think. About our lives. The life of those who have passed. We don’t understand how people are taken out of our lives. A healthy, robust spirit one day, a “presence” then, gone. And when I started thinking about this man I called my brother memories of an entire lifetime cane to mind.

Before the Navy. After the Navy. As young children together and as adults, if you can call any of us that, truly. I believe we all stay children that are buried deep within us and some of us fake being an adult pretty good. Others like me, not so much. If I had to describe, my brother’s life using three other words I have three times three:

rock solid person,

the immovable object and

really good listener.

When I was attending college at Northeastern I purchased a textbook for one of my classes called, “Listening Behavior.” That book came to mind when I started thinking about Steve during this past week.

For as much as my personality might be called inappropriate, quirky, goofy and talkative, Steve’s life was comprised of so much more than a simple story can relate or three words can say. But one of the things my brother did and did really well and truly had the patience for was, “listening.”

Let me explain.

When Steve was fourteen, perhaps fifteen he bought his first “listening” device. A citizen’s band radio. 1972? 1973, maybe? Those things were all the rage at the time. Those of us old enough to remember know the movies and television shows that showed people using CBs. And he began listening. Listening for intelligent life on radio channels or frequencies. When he got his user’s license, he’d sign off or make his bold statement identifying himself on to the frequency by using his CB license serial number: KBRV8283. I can hear him saying it right now. Funny the things you memorize in life and know backward and forwards with little or no effort. But honestly, I heard Steve say that number a million times into the CB. Needless to say, he took it seriously.

Later, I remember the 1980 or 1981 silver Camaro he had, after his four years in the Navy he set the dash / console up with not only a really nice stereo but the ability to hook up his CB. I thought he might give up his hobby after he came home. But he didn’t. The second thing he did after installing the stereo. Driving and listening. Sometimes communicating. He got through a few speed traps listening to his CB on our trips up north.

I remember when Steve, Anna and I were growing up we had this console radio, record player thing that had a million bandwidths on it. AM, FM, short wave. Steve was the only one to truly explore what this thing could do. Inquisitive. Curious about this thing we had. When Steve sat in front of this piece of furniture – because that’s what this thing was, a piece of furniture – he’d tune in all sorts of things: radio-free Europe, A station that broadcast Greenwich Mean Time or – as he taught me – later, became coordinated universal time. I don’t know what time is called nowadays, I just get a sense of its shortness now. Especially now, in the two weeks since we lost Steve. Some of this stuff the entire family sat around and listened to. I think he even tuned in some Hungarian things on short wave radio occasionally too.

The man was gifted with patience many people could never have. Talking “skip” for example on his CB – upstairs in our attic bedroom that we shared in our family home on Barry Street in Chicago. This was after the Navy. He purchased a large antenna and set it up in the backyard. He bought something he called a, “linear” for his his CB radio and of course – up in the attic – his map on the wall with pinpoints stuck into it and a huge plastic-coated postcard holder with all sorts of confirmation cards that he received from all over the world from people whom he was able to contact, talking skip.

Google defines talking “skip” this way:

In radiocommunication, skywave or skip refers to the propagation of radio waves reflected or refracted back toward Earth from the ionosphere, an electrically charged layer of the upper atmosphere. … line-of-sight propagation, in which radio waves travel in a straight line, the dominant mode at higher frequencies.

Who even thinks about the “ionosphere”? Steve did.

I mean how complicated does all that sound? Short wave radio, skip, and more recently HAM radio, too. It makes sense. Radarman in the Navy.

Steve’s had a knack for learning to things really really well. That, like listening, is a talent unto itself. Boundless. His attention to detail for each interest, limitless.

Who has the time to write everything down who you talked to, the time, the geographical location and then after all that, to send that individual a postcard confirmation. Just getting someone else, someplace else to agree to an appointment nowadays is no small miracle. Let alone on a CB radio in 1982. If you can’t walk in to a place and get immediate service nowadays, people usually throw their hands up, walk out and go to another place that will provide the same service.

Steve sat in the attic waiting for transmission like a scientist listening for intelligent life in the universe. Or like a fisherman waiting on the tip of his rod to twitch. And then he would respond. “CQ, CQ, CQDX” and make a connection with someone from Quito, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Chile or some other faraway place that his signal would reach or whose ever signal reached him. He knew when conditions and which nights were conducive to reaching these faraway places on his CB. It was crazy to think about all the things involved in some of Steve’s hobbies. Made my head swim.

Patience. All this took patience.

He amassed a gargantuan music collection – which makes it very difficult to say what Steve’s favorite music was. At a certain point he began streaming music on the Internet and went so far as to create something akin to a pirate radio station complete with these audio “in-betweens” snippets called stingers, bumpers and music beds. Moon Light Radio I think he called it.

So he was a, “listener.” Listened to the CB, the short wave radio, listened to music. Steve would have been lost without this sense. And for as much as he was an “internal” kind of guy, he did listen. And he heard. But did he always respond? Not always. But you knew he heard.

All you needed to see sometimes were his expressions after you said something and you knew he heard what you had said. He may not have always spoke. But he heard. Because he listened.

I hope he’s listening now, too. In the ionosphere. There was no greater ongoing, influence in my life than my older brother, Steve. None. Sometimes all I really needed to know was he was there and out there in the world. Other times, I craved his presence. These are some of the things I wanted everyone to know about my brother. Avid fisherman, too.

One of the things we shared was our love for science fiction and this might be magical thinking on my part but I’d like to think he finally made it to the ionosphere. I know he left

us too soon.

Finally, the last thing we shared was our sense of humor. We laughed at the same things a lot of times. Let me just tell you about Steve and me being “brothers.”

In 2000, when we received a new priest at St. Stephen King of Hungary Church in Chicago, I was 5 years deep into helping to create the weekly church bulletin at that point and the new priest taught me how his group of seminarians greeted each other in seminary.

His name was Laszlo and he showed me this way: he grabbed you by the arms in one of those almost half hugs and clunked your head once on the right and once on the left with his own. It’s not kissing, it’s not a full-body hug and I thought it was cool. So I mentioned this to Steve who, you know, was a guy’s guy, a man’s man and I always felt a little recoil every time I went in for the hug – because it’s not something guys do. So I showed him and explained the “priest / hello / goodbye thing” and that became OUR thing. After describing it to Steve, the way I just did, he said, “You mean like this?” And gave me such a head-butt! I’d give anything to get one of those again from you, Steve. In Hungarian – the sound is described is: “kopant, or kopantas.”

That was my brother. And so much more.

Three words to end on?

Brothers are forever.

MJC

Word count: 1654. Post # 1263

(Photo Credit, urn, Cynthia Ann Konsangobsakul)

Tuesday September 24, 2019

My Eulogy for my Brother

A Man of Infinite Patience

Once, in June of 2008, Steve said to me, “‘Want to go “geocaching” with me? I have a few places I need to check in the area.” I replied, “Sure, let’s go.”

Did I even know what geocaching was? Not really.

There’s something about being a younger brother to a guy like Steve. I used to call him, “The Master of Control.” Do you remember the Looney Tunes cartoon where the one little hyperactive, yippie dog would be bouncing up and down all around this big, broad-shouldered, bulldog with these jowls who never showed emotion? That was Steve and I. Always wanting to go where Steve went. Do what he did. Hang with him. See what makes him tick, you know?

Many times I’d do comedy routines for Steve once we got reacquainted after his time in the Navy. I was the little “yippie” dog. Steve, the master of control, big broad-shouldered bulldog. A stone wall. With a heart of gold.

I always wanted to see him laugh. Make him break. Countless times, too numerous to mention, I probably embarrassed him doing that.

Pissed me off. So I started calling him, “The Master of Control.” Once I threw a pillow at him when he wouldn’t break. He stood motionless. Looking at me. Just looking. Standing still. I threw my acoustical guitar at him. He moved out of the way and the guitar hit the wall. Steve was my big brother, the master of control, but he wasn’t stupid.

So on that day in June of 2008, we got into his SUV and off we went around Belvidere. Not too far from here and he stopped at a park or conservation district and took out this hand-held GPS device and did whatever one does with one of those GPS devices in 2008. He started locating coordinates. Once found, Steve would find something each time. A geocache. A geocache is a publically located and documented cannister listed on a geocaching website that holds trinkets and gum ball machine goodies and holds a little pad of paper and a pen or pencil.

Think of it this way. Geocaching is like combining technology and scavenger hunts with real-world situations.

When you locate and find one of these things, you open the container, document the date and time you found it, then sign your geochaching website user name and trade out one of the trinkets for another trinket that you leave in its place. Then, you hide it away in the same location for someone else to find when they go geocaching. You then go home and document on the website your transactions next to the listing of that particular geocache located at those particular coordinates.

(Thank God, no one mistakes geocaching cannisters for anything else, other-wise homeland security might get involved.)

Everything Steve knew how to do was complicated like that. Short wave radio. Talking skip on the CB. Learning three-dimensional cad cam programming and computer networking and server maintenance. Setting up an email network for a company. All this stuff. This is why I entitled my eulogy, “A Man of Infinite Patience.”

Creating gardens and cultivating them. Like the life he created with his beloved Ilona, or Icuka. There was never a more loyal, loving, caring husband, I don’t think. But also, too, caught up in the hobbies that mesmerized him, too. That must have been tough for his wife to bear. Infinite patience is not something all of us have. Steve had it. Loads of it.

He also had that heart of gold I mentioned. And a fierce love of his wife, their life and life in general.

Nature.

So back to June of 2008. I had just received a really nice camera from a friend who was upgrading and knew I was into photography, just as Steve was and had always been, too. I had my camera with me that day and as we walked around this wooded area in one of the conservation districts in Belvidere that day exploring and trying to get coordinates right, a fawn crept out from the forest into the clearing in which we were standing and stood before a fallen tree trunk that lay parallel to this small gulley in the woods. I spotted it first.

“Steeeeeeeeeeeve. . . . . Do you see it?,” I whispered. “What do I do?”

“Bring your camera up slowly, turn it on, tilt and fire off as many as you can.” He whispered back. He didn’t have time nor was he close enough to get a shot of the baby deer himself. But somehow his voice was just what I needed and wanted to hear and he said the right thing.

This is the guy who taught me how to shave for crying out loud and I am completely lost in those few seconds. The camera around my neck. Love to take pictures. A baby fawn stumbles into our purview. And I’m the yippie dog all over again but this time frozen in space and time. Literally. Didn’t know what to do.

“Ohhh man,” I heard him whisper. Click. Click. Click. Click. And off the baby deer went back into the brush.

“Did you get it?” Steve asked.

He wanted to know if I had followed his advice and had gotten the shot or shots. This is the guy who took quick shutter speed photos of hummingbirds up at our parents weekend place in Northeast Wisconsin. The guy who beamed and beamed and beamed on the day I graduated college and was the happiest I had ever seen him on his wedding day asking me, the yippie dog if I had gotten the shot.

We, in our adult years, did other things together but because this was the photo of a lifetime and it was something I had always wanted to do: share an experience like this with my brother, here it was happening at a crucial time for me. I looked down at the viewfinder on the back of the camera and clicked a switch to show the last photo. It was a digital camera.

“I got it.”

This was another one of those times the master of control only said one word.

“Good.”

“How are you?”

“Good.”

“Good.”

“How’s the pizza? Good?”

“Good.”

He was his father’s boy. Dad was also like that. So was Steve. A man of few words. But such great emotion. Fierce loyalty. Love of his wife and such a love of family. Devout. Complex. I still don’t understand him. But I knew him. Even through stupid family squabbles, not seeing him as often as I would have wanted to and me, having been on the receiving end of so very many gifts he shared with me, – like the smile on his face that day in the woods, geocaching when I told him I got the shot.

I will never understand him. But I know him.

One of the other things I learned from my big brother was how to love life, live it fully and enjoy it. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. And if you mean it and say it, think before you do. Saying it is not always the best solution either.

I can hear him saying right now:

“Did you get it?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.”

Bro, I will never forget you. I will think about you every day. I’ll continue trying to make you laugh.
Up in heaven. I’ll miss you every day. I will try to learn from how you lived. Your example.

My man of Infinite Patience.

Try as I might. . . . another man, like my father, whose bootstraps I’ll never reach.

Rest in Peace now, bro. Rest now.

Times like these with a guy like Steve, if you go on too long, you end up embarrassing him.

I hope I didn’t do that.

Love you bro. Love you.

Word count 1244

Post # 1262

Monday September 2, 2019

RESET

What is this thing, life, where we continually have to hit this sort of, “reset” button? What’s that? A coping mechanism? A safety valve release doohickey? A barrier to pain? A control? A button you push? I don’t know. All I know is that this afternoon, after coming home from the emergency vet’s office and sending my sister’s older dog to The Rainbow Bridge, the word, reset, popped into my head. Who would have thought a person could get so worked up over such a thing? I didn’t. I was there.

This was the first time in my life I have bore witness to something like that. My presence. In the room. I was there with my sister, her fur baby and her son and daughter watching a trusted and faithful servant move beyond his animal coil. I didn’t like it. Surely there must have been enough money. Enough medical procedures. Enough something, to improve his quality of life? The doctor said it was neurological. Comes and goes. No real treatment. Onset is quick and can last for days. All this stuff. That was the consultation. Then the decision. Then, the deed.

I came home and looked at my sister’s other dog and decided that reset was all I could do.

George Carlin, on the, “On the Road” album had a routine that started with the words, “How’s your dog? How’s your goddam dog?” I’ll never forget that routine. When I first heard the routine, it had been years since we had a dog in the house but I knew from start to finish what the man was talking about. Here I am now, vacillating between anger and crying all day, wondering what the ef to do.

He wasn’t even mine!

Hershey was different. Super chill. His hips were bad. His toenails grew faster than Jack’s beanstalk. He didn’t show affection perhaps in a manner most accordingly associated with dogs. His tail had a weird bend in it so that when he was happy, the very tip itself was the thing that wagged. You know how some dogs wag their tail with their hips and sort of do this wagging motion with their entire hindquarters while the tail wags wildly? Not Hersh. But there he was when I came home from work. Standing there. Waiting to be petted. He never licked me once in the entire time I knew him. That was unexpected. I knew him as a puppy and later in life at family holidays coming out to Belvidere and Machesney Park for family holidays. My brother-in-law (when he was still with us) and sister both would say, “Hershey doesn’t kiss.” And I would respond by thinking, “Less slobber to wash off later,” and say, “Oh. Okay.”

A distinct personality.

I had not had a pet in my life for quite some time. Since I was a much younger man. A cat. Lucky. She lived to be sixteen. My father (when he was still alive) and Mom had to send her to The Bridge and took her to the vet together. Few, and I mean very few times in my life I have ever seen my Dad shed a tear or cry, but meeting them at home after the vet? One of those times.

So why get this attached? Why do we put ourselves in these situations? Why take in pets to call our own? To feed? Bathe? Care for? To walk and play with? We set ourselves up for such anguish later, do we not? When I came to move in with my sister we had already discussed – her and I – the possibility of moving into an apartment together rather than trying to save her home so that the expenses we would share would not include a mortgage but rather, rent. At that time I suggested that because of how old her dogs were, a fresh start might be in order. For us both. Me, from Chicago and her from her home and fur babies.

Looking back now, I can see her logic for not giving away the dogs or putting them up for adoption or putting them down. But in the three years I have lived with my sister and her other dog, the quality of Hershey’s life was not what it had once been and my sister and I had really started to see the change in him. Not so much in his personality. But, rather, in how he struggled to get up and down the four stairs leading from the deck to the yard and the amount of effort he put into merely getting up off the floor from a laying position.

Today, I mourn. Devastated.

I don’t know when I’ll be ready to slam down hard on that reset button which is what I really want to do to extricate myself from my feelings today. Maybe it’s going to end up being a slow, plodding, methodical pressing down gently and slowly on that reset button – as days go by – because I don’t think I’m particularly built that way. Even though I’d like to pop that reset button. Make this all go away. Still have an awesome and healthy friend back. That would be nice.

And if there is such a thing as The Rainbow Bridge. I look forward to him standing there as he always did – that tiny tip of his tail wagging – if and when I pass by there someday on my way to whatever awaits me.

So long, Herschel. You’re a good boy.

Love, you buddy.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 907. Post # 1261

Thursday August 22, 2019

Something very very strange happens while lost in the YouTube. The images of bygone eras. Television shows that you could not have possibly saved on VHS come swirling, swirling into your memory from childhood days. Could I have seen Sammy Davis Jr. that night on The Ed Sullivan Show? Or Mimi Hines performing her drunken mouse routine on The Hollywood Palace on my parent’s television set at the age of four? Five? Is there a way I might have seen Bob Hope, Tiger Woods’s father and Tiger Woods on The Mike Douglas Show when I was growing up? How about Moe Howard with that shock of white hair, so old and not himself and yet the same Moe Howard from The Three Stooges shorts? The 1968 Elvis comeback special? I don’t know.

All I know is that when I do get lost in the YouTube with the swirling, swirling thing that happens, I have bended time. Jay Mohr calls it something like, “time travel,” or manipulating time and the reason he calls it that is to illustrate how sometimes our memories take us away. The steps one took looking at one’s patent leather shoes walking from the luncheon / banquet table to the lectern to accept Roosevelt High School’s Class of 1980 Class Clown Award. Time bends. The innermost recesses of your memories come flushing back at the strangest times watching the You Tube. It may be evil, quite frankly. The mind reels. The faux zebra-skinned couch and love seat Mom thought made our family room look modern, hip-chic in the 1960s. All this stuff. I blame the You Tube.

The old video look of Alan Ludden hosting Password in black and white. Some of my earliest memories of television – obviously – were of my parent’s black and white television. A console. A thing. A piece of furniture. Not just a television. This thing. Bended time. We’d sit there, watching. “Don’t sit too close,” Mom and Dad would say. “You’ll ruin your eyes.” The texture of the carpet on the floor. The placement of our furniture. Watching Bewitched on TV in color for the first time. The first memory of a color television set in our home. And there it all is. You Tube. And then you get transported back. This thing makes you remember this other thing. An expression on someone’s face. A shirt, perhaps, they were wearing. The 10th time you saw White Christmas on Family Classics. The time Mom had insomnia and was watching television at one o’clock in the morning and you woke up from the sound of the television and went to go see what she was watching.

The Nutty Professor. The original. The late, late show, as it was called on TV stations that did such things, locally, in Chicago.

And you click forward to the seventies. Jay Leno’s first appearance on The Tonight Show. Definitely saw one of those, live, as it aired, on that program, that night. Or one of those first appearances. Boom! On the You Tube. How? Evil, I tell you. Technology. Back then it was analog and not digital. You had to get up to change the stations. Now you talk into your remote control. It’s mind-numbing what fifty years can do to a person. Or should I say, it’s mind-numbing what fifty years can do to the environment around you? I guess that’s why the You Tube is such a great place in which to get lost. It’s like Dorothy in the poppy field in The Wizard of Oz. Or when she woke up at the end. “You were there and you and YOU!”

Also why I listen to Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast and The Carson Podcast as some of my regular audio-on-demand listening hobby. Even Marc Maron and Kevin Pollak’s podcasts. (Kevin no longer does his interview podcast.) People talking about the past bends it. You travel. The control you have over time and space is not your own. Your mind takes over and you become sedate in the pleasures of bygone time, sweet memories, things you hadn’t thought of in years. You hear these classic guests from The Tonight Show or someone like John Davidson or Robert Wagner and they start all this name dropping of movies they starred in, co-stars they had and you remember the television. The thing that bended time before the You Tube.

And you just sit there, watching or listening and go, “hmph!”

And a smile comes to your face and you shake your head.

Because of all of it.

The things that bent time and the memories.

You don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?

You will. One day. When you hit the You Tubes.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 798. Post # 1260

Friday August 9, 2019

It was a matter of time wasn’t it until a movie or television show or an offering like Cobra Kai showed up, wasn’t it? Let me explain. There is too much. Let me sum up. (Apologies to Inigo Montoya.) Media offerings. Plentiful. Everyone and their mother has a Hulu, Netflix or Prime channel. Even broadcast networks are trying to cash in on “subscription television.” So did YouTube. They created, YouTube Red and the first program they divested their interests in was the Karate Kid universe. Strange. No? We had the first movie, the second and the third. Then came the Hillary Swank one. Somewhere, a cartoon television series was created and then a remake in 2010 with Jackie Chan which focused on Kung Fu and starred, Will Smith’s boy. And here comes Cobra Kai in 2018 that one can only see with a subscription to YouTube Red.

It’s a television series consisting of two seasons totaling 20 episodes. Ten episodes per season and season two was recently released in April, a couple of months ago as of this writing. You can actually catch an episode here or there from each season for free on YouTube free per view which is a brilliant concept if you think about it. But to watch this thing in its entirety, you have to cough up the shekels for it. The series has been renewed for a third season which should become available sometime in 2020.

All this is a thing to behold. The passage of time. The interest in the films. The Karate Kid universe – itself – through the movies 1, 2 and 3 and perhaps even 4 were standard issue for folks with children during the years those films first became popular on VHS. And now, the net series shifts the paradigm of this, “fight the bully revisitation” into something grayer and morally more ambiguous. That’s right. Maybe we’ve had this thing all wrong from the beginning. Maybe it was Daniel LaRusso who was the bully and not Johnny Lawrence after all.

The concept, it turns out – has been around for a while.

The actual bad guy being the true and real good guy. My current boss and I had a brief conversation about this point in fact and how the notion – about the Karate Kid movie, the first one – has been out there for some time now. I’m not really sure how to take this.

It’s got me questioning everything that even remotely seems morally ambiguous now. Questions such as the ones posed by Steve Martin. “Should one yell, ‘Movie!’ in a crowded firehouse?” Or questions George Carlin pondered in Catholic grade school about Dusty and Buddy. “Dusty was a Catholic and Buddy was not. And Buddy was always trying to get Dusty to eat a hotdog on Fridays during Lent.”

Good versus evil. Light versus dark. Vader versus Skywalker. Mr. Miyagi versus John Kreese. The consequences. The ripple effects like they show in You Tube series, Cobra Kai?

Who is the real villain here anyways? Is it Daniel LaRusso or Johnny Lawrence?

What would Mr. Miyagi think about Daniel LaRusso using, “Bonzai,” as his car dealership slogan?

Car A travels 15 per hour miles faster than Car B. If Car A travels 300 miles in the same time that Car B travels 250, what is the speed of each car?

I’m not sure I have the answers to any of those questions anymore.

Maybe I should rethink my whole paradigm.

Maybe every single time I viewed myself in a bully / underdog situation in life, maybe it was me? Maybe I was wrong? Maybe I was the bully? Maybe it was being too close to a single tree that didn’t allow me to see the entire forest? Maybe the Karate Kid wasn’t this life-affirming, overcoming obstacles, bad intentions and downright evil people, “thing” for millions and millions of pop culture consumers. Maybe Miyagi was the Satanic Sensei all along? Maybe Daniel LaRusso was the actual master provocateur in the whole enchilada?

Yeah. Maybe. And maybe monkeys might fly out of my butt.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 690. Post # 1259

Monday July 22, 2019

Lots and lots of things coming out from this year’s San Diego Comic Con for those of us who are part of the most diverse subcultures society’s ever seen. Think of this for a moment: a scant thirty years ago, geeks were geeks, nerds nerds, preps preps and jocks jocks. There was no way around this. Nowadays, subcultures are the norm – and subcultures of subcultures. Society and the ways in which we express our relationships to our popular culture, the ways in which we as consumers partake of and consume our popular culture – which is more diverse than ever – changes daily.

The guy in the Izod shirt sitting next to you in the dentist’s waiting room is a non-closeted Marvel comics geek, even though he works out four to five times a week. The girl with the purple hair in line in front of you at the McDonald’s just power-watched the first nine seasons of The Walking Dead over the last three weeks. And the well-dressed, elderly gentleman swiping through his Android device standing in front of City Hall just got a text from his grandson cementing their plans to watch Shane Lowry highlights from The British Open.

It’s mind-numbing to think.

The diversity of interests and the ways in which we consume media and our pop culture, the limitless means to access our interests and the manner in which we discuss it nowadays is not nearly as exclusionary as it once was. Geeks and jocks alike speak, Archer, or Avengers now. Trekkers and Trekkies are no longer the bane of society. Neil deGrasse Tyson has made physics and astronomy fun. No more talking heads and stuffed shirts on PBS telling us billions and billions of years ago we surfaced from the primordial ooze and flopped out of the muck to take our first steps as human beings on this planet. And even if it is discussed, that shit’s cool now. The jocks are geeking out now and doing cosplay on weekends at Comic Cons just as much as the nerds are. Hell, there is a whole nerd sub-culture nowadays of the prettiest people “dorking themselves up” with nerd clothing and huge, black plastic rimmed glasses as if this were some strange fashion statement.

Odd.

But true.

Which brings me back around the the San Diego Comic Con from this passed weekend. All of your most favorite television shows, movies, graphic novels, etc. on display at booths showcasing past, present and future details, people dressed up like Darth Vader and Captian Kirk, it has all become accepted, passe and mandatory at this event. The largest of it’s kind anywhere and has in recent times become the place where trailers for movies and television series have enjoyed premieres for their upcoming franchise installments and next seasons.

Like a pop culture Mardi Gras with less breasts. Or more depending on the level of cosplay on display in and around the convention halls.

I’d love to go to one of these things one day and wear my Star Trek: The Next Generation shirt to see how things have changed. Yes, I have one. Yes, I bought it at a Star Trek Convention in the early 1990s, say, 1993. I had to! And I had to go to one of these things to see for myself how nutty these things were (are). But now, twenty-five years later, these things have become monstrous events! I ended up attending two altogether. The first was the see Brent Spiner make an usually rare public appearance. I even got to ask him a question! And the second one of these things I attended I saw Sir Patrick Stewart speak. Floating around the convention hall that evening was John deLancie. If none of this impresses you, I really don’t care because my geekdom and nerdiness has been validated. I only had to wait twenty-five years for it.

As my friend Mike Z. used to say, God rest his soul, “The things you call me out on as being nerdy are not nearly as nerdy as the things people find nerdy about ~YOU!~”

We’re all the same now thanks to Nerd Culture. And I for one can hardly wait to hear things about this highly anticipated next Star Trek Series debuting in 2020, named, Star Trek: Picard.

Looks like it’s going to be pretty cool!

And that’s coming from a nerd.

And that’s perfectly alright and normal now.

In 2019.

Finally.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 749. Post # 1258