W.B. at the Movies: Dr. Strange 2

We watched Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on Saturday night, and I appreciated it for what it was. How do you go wrong, really, with a cast along the lines of Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel MacAdams and newcomer Xochitl Gomez?

I have resigned myself to the fact that the Stephen Strange of my youth has left the building. “My” Dr. Strange would be more likely to shout “By the hoary hosts of Hogarth!” when alarmed, as opposed to “S#!+!” and he had no sense of humor, so some of this character’s wisecracks feel like something out of Tony Stark’s mouth in an Iron Man movie.

Be that as it may, this latest Marvel movie is entertaining — although I’m not sure I would take children to see it, as some of the scarier imagery made Red blanch — and a couple of new characters made my comic-book geek soul soar, played by John Krasinski and Charlize Theron (to keep spoilers at bay). 

You need to be at least familiar with the Disney+ series WandaVision to fully understand the plot, which extends the TV show’s exploration of how grief affects a superhero’s psyche. I do hope the denouement of this film brings that episode to a close so that, if Elizabeth Olsen reprises the role, we can go back to seeing her as the powerful force for good that she has been in the past. (Her seething delivery of the line, “You took everything from me,” remains one of my bone-chilling favorite moments of Avengers: Endgame.)

Oh, and that one-eyed monster in the movie’s opening scenes was so spot-on Ditkoesque that I’m pretty sure that delighted childish squeal I heard came from me.

Morning routine

Red is out in the sun, coaxing plants to bloom their flowers and yield their veggies. I am here inside on my blue chair, coaxing words to form into pleasing patterns. We have settled into this routine, although I do feel guilt about not doing more to tame our land and spruce up the house.

The arrival of the puppy has disrupted our routine. There was a time when I would wake up around 5 a.m., assume the blue chair and write, with my golden old friend curled by my side, until the rest of the household woke an hour or so later.

Now the puppy rises between 4:30 and 5, waking us all with an insistent whine to be let outside for her morning constitutional. I am still seeking a routine that will get me into the blue chair for solitary writing and reflection on a regular basis, now that 5-6 a.m. belongs to us all.

Summer is my new golden friend, and she is who she is, not a replacement for my old friend. We greet the dawn together; before she learned how to descend the 10 steps from our deck into the enclosed back yard, I would take her out front on a leash, and that remains our morning habit, even though I could easily send her out back now.

She does her No. 1, we walk up to the mailbox for the paper, and she does her No. 2. Sometimes she will sit and watch the vehicles pass on the highway up the hill, or contemplate a robin or some other early bird. I have a leash in my hand, so I can’t write whatever thoughts come to we as we welcome the new day together, but in many ways that’s better than contemplating a blank page. There’s so much life to see out there.

Poetry emotion

Do I dare to eat a peach? I am not a frequent poetry reader, but I do admire a good poem, and I do enjoy “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” with its enigmatic imagery and talking of Michelangelo.

I have fun unraveling an E.E. Cummings piece with its just-so placement of words and phrases and punctuation that makes so much delightful sense when you solve the puzzle. 

When I was a kid and made up songs by the dozen, I would turn to Mom’s poetry book when I ran out of ideas for lyrics. If I say so myself, I created a haunting rendition of Carl Sandburg’s “Grass,” a rousing version of Longfellow’s “Excelsior,” and a lovely ballad from Longfellow’s “My Lost Youth” that I may yet relearn the guitar so I can record it someday. “A boy’s will is the wind’s will, and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

Most poetry these days is found in song lyrics. Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” is an astonishing poem that could stand beside “Prufrock.” Woodworth’s spirit no doubt wishes he had written a couplet like, “There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away/They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets.”

I’m glad my parents were readers and let us explore wherever our tastes and curiosity ventured. It’s why I can say with a straight face that my favorite literary works include The Scarlet Letter, The Martian and Amazing Spider-Man #31-33, and my favorite music includes Holst’s The Planets, “Good Vibrations” and “Revolution 9.”

The mysterious affair of the FRAP

Why, sometimes, does the sound of the 11-month-old barking randomly send a thrill of irritation up my spine, and sometimes it makes me laugh uncontrollably? Does she continue barking as an experiment to see which response is more real?

The dogs are in a constant battle to, I think, determine who will be the alpha dog. With the entitled recklessness of youth, Summer wants to rule the roost. Dejah more or less patiently replies, “Look, kid. I was second fiddle for almost eight years, and I kind of liked being the only child for those six blessed months, so you go be cute but don’t you dare think you’re the boss of me.”

Sometimes the barking seems to be less about this struggle and more, “C’mon! Doesn’t anyone in this sleepy old town want to play?” And, of course, it occasionally means, “Holy cow! There’s a rabbit/squirrel/deer out there!!”

If you bring dogs into your house, you must be prepared for random barking fits, not to mention inexplicable bursts of energy when the puppy runs back and forth through the house at breakneck speed. This latter actually has a name, we recently learned: FRAP, or Frenetic Random Activity Period, less formally known as the zoomies. As far as I can tell, it has something to do with being so happy to be alive that one simply has to run and run and run, occasionally making a sound that might mean, “Oh! There’s so much to see in this world that I have to check it all out as fast as I can while I can!”

Sometimes the crazy behavior turns me into a pre-ghost-visit Scrooge, and I bark back something along the lines of “Shaddap!” or, more gently, “Simmer, Summer.”

But when I’m in my right mind — my Scrooge-after-the-spirits mind — I just laugh and pray nothing gets broken.

Nobody really cares, but I do

Saturday, July 1, is scheduled to be the day I post something on this blog for the 700th day in a row. July 31 marks the ends of two years of consecutive daily blogging.

So, of course, right on time, Resistance is starting to rear its ugly head.

“Nobody really cares except you.”

“All those words you’re writing could be going into the novels.”

“You could be catching up on your sleep when the day job gets busy.”

“Nobody really cares except you. Really!”

Oh, these are the times they warned us about, Steven Pressfield talking about the Resistance, Seth Godin and The Dip, and all those other writers who have gone through the self-doubt and the second-guessing that apparently comes with the territory.

Never mind that I have been averaging nearly 10,000 words a month.

Never mind that I have never achieved this level of consistency in my non-day-job writing in several decades of wanting to.

Never mind that I just published my fourth book comprised mostly of selections from those almost 700 posts.

There’s an annoying little corner of my brain that says those aren’t “real” books. “Real” books are novels, don’t you know.

The good news is I have finally been around long enough to laugh at myself for taking those little nagging doubts seriously for a few seconds.

First, the streak is real and tangible and something I am proud of.

Second, I can say from past experience in this skin that, if I stopped blogging every day, it’s very possible I would stop writing every day, period.

Third, hey! I’m having fun doing this! Ya wanna make somethin’ out of it?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to get started on tomorrow’s post.

For the next generation to discover

“This aging stuff is fascinating,” the aging man said to his companion. “It’s like I’m slowly melting. Everything is falling apart or congealing into a tub of goo, and my mind sees it all happening and is powerless to change the inevitable.”

“You could exercise, lose weight, wrap your aching joints, take an aspirin,” his companion suggested.

“The inevitable would still be inevitable.”

“Of course. But you could delay it, give yourself some extra years to work with.”

“There’s that,” he admitted, sipping his coffee. Rather than set the cup down, he cradled it against his chest, using his prodigious belly as a shelf, feeling the warmth against his fingers. “I want for it to all have meant something, you know? I want to have inspired someone or been a good example. I suppose I could inspire by being a bad example — ‘Don’t be this guy, children’ — but wouldn’t it be better to fill others’ souls with hope and desire and a drive to greatness?”

“How do you know that hasn’t already happened?” replied the companion.

“Wouldn’t I know?”

“Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you’ve written something like It’s A Wonderful Life and no one will find it until 30 years from now, you know, maybe that thing you wrote way back when will resonate with the next generation.”

“I see what you mean. I’m always digging through old stuff looking for that hidden gem no one has noticed, so I can lift it up and say, ‘Look here, isn’t this fine? Look at this, listen to that.’ And I love when I’ve been saying that for years and suddenly people have finally seen and heard.”

“There you have it,” assured the friend. “It’s not for you to fully know what you’ve accomplished, maybe. Maybe someone like you, who searches for the hidden gems, will stumble across your stumbling 50 years from now and think, ‘Well, look here, isn’t this fine? I need to share this.’”

“I do like to share …”

in loco parentis

© Wee Keng Bee | Dreamstime.com

My “Aha!” moment regarding libertarianism came in 1992, when I had a chance to interview Andre Marrou, that year’s Libertarian Party candidate for president, when he visited St. Norbert College in De Pere outside Green Bay.

Oh, I was already well down that road. I was enamored of Republicans like Lee Sherman Dreyfus, governor of Wisconsin 1979-83, who said the role of the federal government should be limited to “defending our shores, delivering our mail and staying the hell out of our lives,” and Ronald Reagan, president of the US of A 1981-89, who said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

But Marrou finally focused my attention on the fact that neither major party was especially inclined to champion liberty. In fact, he said, both parties want to be our parents. Republicans want to be our stern disciplinarian father, and Democrats want to be our mommy, watching over us from cradle to grave.

That crystalized the concept for me, as I began to realize our divide is not between “left” and “right,” or Republican or Democrat. Our divide is between those who believe the primary responsibility for our lives lies with the government and those who believe in individual rights and responsibilities.

The parties differ over what aspects of our lives the central government should control, but they are in lockstep agreement that the central government should control our lives. They don’t trust us with the responsibility. 

“But without government you’d have anarchy! chaos!” is the standard response. That’s literally true, seeing as the root of the word anarchy is the Greek anarkhia, or “without a ruler.” Most of our problems seem to stem from someone deciding s/he ought to be the ruler of the roost, the city, the nation, or the world. Grownups don’t need a parent; we are more than capable of ruling ourselves.

A little search engineering found disagreement about whether governments killed 160 million, 170 million or 262 million people during the 20th century, and the mayhem didn’t let up just because we switched millennia. With that kind of record, I might be willing to try anarchy for awhile. In any case, I dare say the ruling class tries too hard to be our parents.

– – –

These thoughts are among the reasons I collected a few of my writings on this subject into a little book called Echoes of Freedom Past: Reopening, Reclaiming and Restoring Liberty, now available at a bookstore or e-merchant in your neighborhood. I’m always timid about self-promotion, but the early comments have been positive and so I would be remiss not to mention it.