Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Does Time Pass or Do We? Thoughts About Another Year

You're 10 years old. Your year begins at the start of September because that's when you go to school. Your mom buys you new notebooks, and you put five freshly sharpened pencils in your backpack and take your Power Ranger lunchbox and go to the first day of school. The weather slowly gets colder, and you look forward to Christmas then New Year's. Winter is long, but eventually spring breaks through. You celebrate your birthday in April, and you're proud of the extra candle on the cake, though you don't feel older. As it gets warmer, you count the days until summer. Your older brother graduates from high school, and you assume you never will because that's forever away. Summer comes, and you rejoice. It's time for fishing and bare feet and popsicles and long, sunny days playing by the pool.

Then it's the same thing again. And again. Fall, winter, spring, summer. School, summer. School, summer. Another year older, another year past. Your parents get older, and you don't notice. You get taller, but you only know because of the marks your mom makes on the wall with a pencil every few months. You get smarter, but you only know that because you found the first term paper you wrote in fifth grade, and it was pretty unimpressive. Morning, afternoon, night. Awake, asleep. Fall, winter, spring, summer. School, summer. School, summer.

Then suddenly you have a college degree, a job, a significant other, a car, insurance, and a receding hairline. Your older brother has two kids, and your parents call you to ask you how to use an iPhone.  You don't notice you're growing up until you do. You notice it one day while you're walking from the parking garage to work, and you look down and see a 6' 0" frame, a tailored suit, polished dress shoes, one hand holding a cup of coffee and the other clutching a brief case. Is this who you are now? Are you really so different from who you were then?

When we are young, life is a circle. School, summer. Morning, afternoon, night. Fall, winter, spring, summer. Sometimes life is punctuated by great loss—like a death in the family—or a significant change—like moving across the country. But your parents or guardians are there to create reality for you, and it's a safe reality. The seasons march on. School marches on. We march on.

But when you glance down and see the tailored suit, the briefcase, and the size 11 black shoes, it makes you wonder: did the world journey around the sun 25 times, and this is the result? Did my upbringing and my environment and the passing seasons bring me here today? What in the world am I doing?

When you were young, you felt like a track athlete running lap after lap becoming stronger, smarter, better, with each circle. You weren't sure where in the bleachers your coach is sitting, but you could sometimes hear him giving you instructions. One day the track disappeared, and your sneakers fell silently onto the forest floor as you passed through a group of pine trees; you'd become a cross country runner. You realized life isn't a circle, even if it looked that way before. It's a winding path through the woods that you often have to make up as you go along. You don't know what you'll have to run through or where the finish line is, but you have to be okay with that.

The seasons still come and go. Jobs come and go. People come and go. But you're still a runner. It seemed like track before, but it was always cross country. You can't stay the same, so make sure you become better. Your Coach is the only one who is always there and doesn't change. So wake up. Each day is a new life. Nothing happens twice. Each moment is unique. A second chance is merely a chance that resembles another one. Even if you get up the same time each day and celebrate the same holidays and go the same places, you are a cross country runner, not a track runner. The path isn't a circle. It's a journey. Listen to your Coach. March on.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Interstellar: Why It Should be Called Interbookcase

At the beginning of the film, we see that the world has become dusty. Just after the credits is the appropriate time to mutter, "Oh, no. Not another environmental agenda movie." After it's established that the world is running out of food, Matthew Mcconaughey runs over half the farm to catch an IFO (identified flying object).

After that, he goes to parent/teacher conferences, where the conversation is conveniently directed to explain how the world became so dusty and to show us how much Mcconaughey loves space. The inciting incident occurs when a sandstorm adds some excitement to an inherently boring game: baseball.

Mcconaughey and his children go home, where his daughter Murphy tells him the ghosts are leaving her a message. He sees the lines in the sand and assumes in about 4 seconds that they are morse code and that it reveals coordinates. What else is he to do? He hops in his truck and drives to the location.

Surprise, surprise. The coordinates lead to N.A.S.A. Fantine, who is angry and now has short hair, explains how her father Alfred—who just happens to be Mcconaughey's acquaintance—is planning to save the world through space exploration. Fifteen minutes later, they are begging this trespasser to pilot an aircraft on a suicide mission. Because they can figure out how to send space ships through a wormhole but can't communicate with the astronauts they already sent up there.

Mcconaughey hates farming so much that he decides to accept the offer. He tells his grieving daughter that it's whatever. He'll be back sometimes, and in the meantime, she can entertain herself by looking at this neato water he gave her. He doesn't bother to stick around for more than 5 minutes. It's time for space! From this point on, we will call "Mcconaughey" Astronaut Farmer.

First the astronauts sleep for a while, and I was really disappointed that no one stayed awake to draw murals on the ceiling with condiments. Then they wake up and go to the immensely creepy Water Planet. The one dude stays behind and spends 23 years contemplating black holes because that seemed like a good idea. The other 3 land on the stupid water planet and try to get themselves killed. Only one dies. They leave, and Astronaut Farmer gets really mad at Fantine. Then they return to the ship, where the other dude is super excited to tell them all of his new thoughts about the black hole.

Then they go to the Frozen Planet to rescue Jason Bourne, who at first shares an emotional moment with the Astronaut Farmer because he hasn't seen another human being in just forever. But then he tries to maroon them on the island. But he will always remember this as the day he almost outsmarted the Astronaut Farmer. Ol' Jason Bourne should have stuck to assassinations because space clearly isn't his thing. (At this point in the movie, he blows up.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Astronaut Farmer, Jr.'s, children have developed asthma. His sister Murphy, the scientist, tries to convince him that dusty-lung is very serious. When he won't let his children move to a safer location, she burns down his farm. Because that seems logical. Between shots of army trucks driving around, the farm burning down, and Murphy looking frantically at her favorite book case, we get the sense that things are really serious now. Since the movie has already been going on for 2.5 hours, it really needs to end. So we assume the world is totally going to end if Astronaut Farmer doesn't do something super sacrificial, like, right now.

Astronaut Farmer, the Black Hole Expert, and Fantine bemoan their stereotypical space fuel deficit and try to decide what to do. First, during the Dark Night of the Soul moment, Fantine realizes that her father, Alfred, was lying to them all along and only planned on saving the embryos. Black Hole Expert points out that the secret numbers, which are hiding inside the black hole, could save the day. "We must go deeper," he said.

So they decide to fly into a black hole because it's their only chance. They release the robot to search for the codes. The robot is all like: "Are you satisfied with your care?" And Astronaut Farmer is all like: "Yeah, okay." Then, completely unexpectedly, Astronaut Farmer leaps into a little ship and loses himself in the Black Hole because "It's the only way" or whatever. Then he discovers Interbookcase, a place where every single moment of his daughter's time in her room is represented by a physical space.

First he realizes that he is his daughter's ghost and that humans from the future—not aliens—built this structure and have been leading them all along. He uses morse code to send himself the N.A.S.A. coordinates in the sand. Then he uses morse code again to send his daughter the secret numbers from the Black Hole Expert. This is all completely logical because it makes perfect sense that humans from the future can build a structure that defies the fourth dimension, but they can't think of a better way to communicate than recruiting a farmer from the past to knock over books. Astronaut Farmer floats around for a while and wakes up in a space station, where he sees the boring game of baseball happening outside his window. He finally gets to see his daughter, who is now like 400 years old. She basically tells him to go away because she has a lot of other people waiting to talk to her. So then he leaves and finds Fantine on a very earth-like planet where there is no dust, and he doesn't have to be a farmer.

The movie should have been called Interbookcase.