General Ramblings

The Shat’s New Ride

Say what you will about William Shatner, the guy’s setting an incredible example of how not to go gentle into that good night.

Last week, he announced his plans to ride a custom-built three-wheel motorcycle across the United States at an age — 84 — when many people aren’t astride anything more adventurous than a rocking chair. His path will more-or-less follow the 2,400 miles of old Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, with planned stops in St. Louis, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Vegas. There will be a film crew along for the trip (naturally), and an eventual TV show chronicling the adventure, and the whole thing is being done to raise awareness for the work done by the American Legion nationwide on behalf of veterans.

As for Shatner’s new trike… man, it’s something else, a wicked-looking, V8-powered, one-of-a-kind (for now!) machine called The Rivet. The press materials claim the design was inspired by the B-17 bomber, but it looks more like something from the Mad Max movies to me:

william shatner rivet motorcycle

The Rivet was built by a Chicago-area custom shop called American Wrench; they’ve set up a dedicated website for the trike here, if you’d like to know more about it… or look into getting one for yourself! (I’d kinda like to have one, but I have a hunch I couldn’t afford it. The “Reserve Your Own” page is suspiciously lacking any price indicators!)

Shatner’s cross-country trek (sorry!) is scheduled to begin June 23 at the American Wrench shop, and wrap up in LA on the 30th. I haven’t seen anything about when the television series might air, or on what network, but I imagine it’ll probably be on cable by the end of summer or early fall.

I hope I’m still dreaming of doing things like this when I’m 84, if not actually doing them… and yes, I’m perfectly aware that Shatner probably won’t really be in the saddle of The Rivet all that way at his age, that there will be some Hollywood illusion-making for the sake of the TV show. But I do believe he’ll be making the journey, one way or the other, and doing something pretty damn interesting and valuable as well (the American Legion angle), and that’s the thing that counts. He just doesn’t seem interested in slowing down, no matter what the calendar says. Captain Kirk was an inspiration to me when I was young; Bill Shatner is inspiring me as I face getting older…

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Conspiracy Theories

Conversation between the lovely Anne and myself, just now…

ME: You take a risk every time you leave the house. You could get hit by a bus. You could be electrocuted by a random static discharge from a computer mouse.

ANNE: I’ve never heard of that happening.

ME: The government covers it up.

ANNE: You were pretty fast with that comeback.

ME: It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to.

And so it goes, here at the Bennion Compound…

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I’ve Had Better Weekends

Fast-moving thunderstorms that dump a lot of rain in a very short time aren’t unusual during the warmer months in Utah, but the storm that hit Saturday night was exceptional even for a “summer monsoon,” as my mother has always called them. Have a look at this:

 

My house is just down the street from the spot where much of that footage was captured. As it happens, I wasn’t home during the storm, but my lovely Anne was, and she tells me that the lawn, sidewalk, and street all vanished within minutes beneath a small lake. She also tells me water was actually rolling up the driveway from the street. But these were only interesting natural phenomena, passing curiosities gone almost as soon as they were observed. The real problem was a blocked downspout on the edge of our roof, which caused water to overtop the brim of the rain gutters and cascade down in a four-foot wide sheet… straight into the window well of our basement bedroom.

The debris line left behind the next morning suggests the water rose to about six inches deep in the window well. I like to imagine it probably looked something like this:

titanic_smith-underwater

Fortunately, our experience wasn’t as catastrophic as Captain Smith’s final moments in Titanic — the window did not implode in a spectacular manner — but the water got in anyhow, and, to finally get to the damn point, we’ve got to replace the carpet in our master bedroom. Our cozy, wall-to-wall, luxurious shag carpet, which my late Hannibal-cat loved to sharpen his claws in, which felt so warm and soft and cushy beneath my bare toes, just installed about two and a half years ago. Anne and I and my dad spent much of yesterday slicing it and the water-logged pad beneath into strips and hauling them upstairs in dripping, heavy bundles bound for the trash bins. To add insult to injury, I’d already spent much of Saturday hunched over in our shower, scouring away hard-water scales, so by the time I dropped into bed last night, I was so tired and sore I could barely move.

It’ll take probably a week for the concrete to dry out, and then we’ll have to source new carpet and installers… and Anne no longer works in the floor-covering industry, which was such a big help to us when we first finished that room…

Yeah, like I said… I’ve had better weekends.

It could’ve been worse, of course. I know other people in the general area who had several inches of standing water in their basements. We don’t even have any damage to the walls. But still… I find the whole situation deeply disheartening. What is it about being an adult that just about the time you feel like you’re getting ahead, paying off some bills, and finally seeing some goals coming within your reach, some bullshit thing like this knocks you back a rung or two?

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Thinking of My Boys

I spotted this on Wil Wheaton’s Tumblr a while back and decided to save it, because it reminds me of my own kitty boys Evinrude and poor departed Hannibal, who was killed nearly a year ago on the road in front of our house. ‘Rude is immensely lovable and I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but Hannibal was my little pal, and, as much as I feel like a dick for saying so, my favorite of the two. I miss his cocky tough-guy swagger and insatiable curiosity (the two qualities that I suspect led him to be out on that road in the first place). I know his brother misses him too…

cat-massage

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Making Some Changes

I had just turned twenty-four years old, and I walked into the DMV to renew my driver’s license. I walked out a half-hour later with a mandate that changed my life. I’d flunked the eye exam and would now be required by The Man to start wearing eyeglasses. At least if I wanted to keep driving under legal sanction.

I don’t think I’d been so close to throwing an all-out tantrum since I was ten. I remember stomping out of the drab institutional government building that afternoon pissed off at everything I could think of: the DMV, the State of Utah, the uncaring bureaucratic functionaries who’d delivered the news, the soul-crushing reality that, even at 24, I was getting older… I was mad at the entire fracking universe, really. I hated the idea of having to wear glasses, just hated it. Glasses didn’t fit my self-image or my idea of “cool.” Sure, Indiana Jones occasionally donned a set of readers when he wanted to study a Grail tablet or something close up, but that was different. Not like wearing the damn things all the time. None of the action heroes and matinee idols I, in my naive insecurity, wanted to be more like wore glasses. (This was the early ’90s, before they became a near-ubiquitous fashion accessory.) They still carried the taint of bookish nerdism to them (the fact that I was a bookish nerd was irrelevant; I didn’t want to look like one), and in my mind I could hear every playground taunt of “Four Eyes!” I’d ever overheard.

In addition, they were an added expense I didn’t want to pay (I didn’t have a lot of money in those days and was very conscious of where it went). Yearly exams, frames, lenses… I didn’t know how much exactly those things cost, but I figured they were pretty pricey. (That’s the one thought I had that day that turned out to be correct.) But I think the thing that most troubled me was that I hadn’t realized I needed them at all, and I was embarrassed about it. What kind of a schmuck can’t tell his own vision is going? Hell, in my job as a movie-theater projectionist, I’d been getting a lot of calls recently from ushers down on the floor that the movies were out of focus, but I’d dismissed them. The movies looked fine to me. But it was true. Apparently, my vision had deteriorated so slowly that I just didn’t notice. And now I had egg on my face. A lot of it, in my mind.

In short, being told I needed glasses had bruised my ego. And I’ll be honest… I never really got over it.

I’ve been wearing glasses for nearly 22 years now, damn near half my life, and even though I long ago got used to the idea, I still don’t like it. Oh, sure, it was like some kind of miracle the first time I put them on and saw that there were, in fact, trees on the mountain ranges that encircle my valley home — I’d long believed they were just bare rock — but somewhere, deep in the back of my mind, some little part of me still thinks “this isn’t really you…”

It’s not that I think I look bad in glasses. Quite the contrary, once I figured out that spending a little extra money on better quality and more fashionable styles was worth it, I’ve been relatively content with my appearance. But it’s not how I want to look, if that makes sense. And the glasses themselves are a pain in the butt. I’m always conscious of their presence, always. I worry about losing them, breaking them, scratching them. When it rains or snows, they get spotted. When I kiss my girl, they get smudged. I risk the frames getting bent if I hug somebody at the wrong angle, or fall asleep on the couch with my face down on the armrest. I can’t easily back up a car the way I was taught, by looking back over my shoulder, because I end up looking half through the lenses and half over the top of them, meaning my depth perception is all screwed up. I hate how they fog up when I come inside after being outdoors on a cold day. I hate how they hang off my face when I bend over, and sometimes will jiggle a bit and make me dizzy. I hate how, when I’m doing yardwork on a hot day, they’ll slide down my nose or catch droplets of sweat in the lenses. I hate that I have to spare a second (and a hand) to pop them off when I’m putting on or taking off a t-shirt. When Anne and I went on a snowmobiling expedition through Yellowstone a few winters ago, trying to wear the glasses and a helmet was uncomfortable as hell. And I haven’t enjoyed amusement park rides in years, partly because I’m getting old and everything makes me woozy now, but a big issue is worrying about my glasses flying off.

I realize these are all petty complaints, especially in return for being able to clearly see, a gift that many people in the developing world — or even poor people in our own first world — don’t have the luxury of complaining about. But I won’t apologize for complaining about this. And assuming everything goes well today, I won’t have to anymore.

I’ve been thinking about getting LASIK corrective surgery for years, but I kept putting it off for various reason. It was too expensive, or too inconvenient to take a couple days off work for the recovery, or it was just plain too scary to think of some quack firing an energy beam into my one and only pair of baby browns. On some level, I think I felt that I didn’t really deserve to do it because my motivation was vanity. I’ve always thought cosmetic surgery was largely unjustified, and what is this if not another form of cosmetic surgery?

Then a couple weeks ago, I opened the dishwasher right after it completed its cycle and got a faceful of steam. Naturally, my glasses fogged over, leaving me completely blind for 30 seconds or so… and that was the final straw. I didn’t get angry or anything, but I just decided right then and there that I was sick of wearing these damn things. My optometrist had mentioned on my last visit that I was a good candidate for LASIK if I wanted to consider it, but I hadn’t followed through on his referral. Now I was ready. So I scheduled an evaluation with Hoopes Vision, the most-often namechecked LASIK provider in Utah, and — to cut at long last to the chase — I’m going in today at 1:30 to have the procedure.

I’ll be honest, I’m nervous as hell. The first image that jumped into my mind once my appointment was confirmed was this:

Goldfinger laser

Followed closely by this:

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve had LASIK — it’s funny how once you start talking about something like this, fellow travelers seem to come out of the woodwork — and with only one or two exceptions, nobody has reported any problems at all, and even the ones who had a setback told me they didn’t regret doing the surgery in the end. But still… lasers… in the eyes… I don’t really think I’ll end up with smoking craters where my eye sockets used to be, but…

Sometimes a vivid imagination is a real curse.

Funny thing, though: the day of my evaluation appointment, a few hours after I got home from the clinic, I was leaving the bathroom and reached out to turn off the lights when I heard something clunk into the waste basket and suddenly my vision went blurry. It turned out the frame of my glasses had spontaneously snapped and one of the lens had tumbled into the trash. Now, if that wasn’t some kind of a sign, I don’t know what is…

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This Was Unexpected

So I’m at work right now, proofreading a monstrous technical report about online security, and I was just caught completely off-guard by this passage in the report’s introduction:

One final note before we dive into the breaches: The [XYZ] team wished to mark the passing of Leonard Nimoy, as that event came during the creation of this report. We will all miss his humor, talent, and inspiration.

I guess it’s not such a surprising thing to include, considering the milieu from which this report originated (the IT field), but still… he really did make quite an impact, didn’t he?

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Mojo Needs Our Help!

Remember that video clip I posted a while back showing how the 1978 Battlestar Galactica might look with modern digital effects? If you’ll recall, that demo was created by a dude named Adam “Mojo” Lebowitz, a very talented visual-effects artist whose work has enlivened many well-loved sci-fi properties in recent years: the TV series Babylon 5, Star Trek: Voyager and Deep Space Nine, the theatrical film Serenity, and the director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that was released to DVD. He also notoriously accepted an Emmy for his work on Ron Moore’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica while wearing a Colonial Warrior outfit from the original Galactica.

Well, I saw this morning on The Digital Bits, a DVD/BluRay news blog I follow, that Mojo is in a bad place right now and could really use some of the geek community’s legendary compassion and generosity:

For the last couple of years, Mojo has been suffering from chronic, debilitating pain that’s made it hard for him to work regularly. This led him into an unfortunate pain-killer addiction after a doctor prescribed opiates as a treatment without really investigating the cause. Needless to say, Mojo’s been in a downward spiral. The good news is that he’s finally checked himself into the Glendale Adventist Medical Center for treatment. The bad news is that he’s been diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy – essentially it’s severe nerve damage that results in chronic phantom pain, numbness, tingling and burning sensations in his limbs, tremors and lack of coordination. It’s not curable, but it is treatable with the proper medical supervision. But while Mojo has been recommended to a secondary treatment center by the specialists, it turns out that his crappy health insurance isn’t going to cover it. And because he hasn’t been able to work much in the last year, he’s broke and he’s in danger of being kicked out of his apartment. So Mojo desperately needs financial help. His friends (myself included) are doing what they can, but I wanted to throw out the word to all of you in the online film geek community.

 

If you’ve enjoyed Mojo’s work over the years, if you appreciated his efforts to try and get Battlestar Galactica Remastered going, if you simply enjoyed the clip he produced above – if that’s worth something to you – please consider sending him $10, $20, whatever you can (and feel like) chipping in via PayPal (to: mojospfx@aol.com). It may literally be the difference between Mojo getting back on his feet or being homeless. By the way, you can visit him here on Facebook, where he often posts CG renderings and other interesting things.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not personally know Mojo, although I’ve had a couple of brief exchanges with him on Facebook, and he seems like a pretty cool guy. But I do enjoy his work, even though I’m on record as preferring the old-fashioned miniature and matte-painting FX techniques I grew up with to modern CGI. Mojo’s stuff seems far less, well, “digital” than a lot of the effects you see these days, especially on television. To my eye, his starships look almost as solid and massive as those created with physical models, and I know he spent a lot of time on that Battlestar demo trying to get the vapor trails from the Vipers’ turbo engines to look like the practical effects that were done in 1978. You have to admire that level of craftsmanship and passion for the project.

Also, I really despise the way American society positions so many people one illness away from living in a cardboard box. It’s not right, and it’s not fair that people who have bigger things to worry about have to live with that kind of fear. So, for all those reasons, I’m going to throw a sawbuck Mojo’s way. It’s the least I can do for a fellow human being who also happens to have contributed to so many of my obsessions. And I’d like to ask that everyone reading this do the same, even if you can only spare a couple bucks. Skip your Starbucks run today and help out a brother. And if you have a blog or some social media presence, spread the word…

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Useful German Expressions

Yesterday, my friend Karen — who knows of my affection for German words that articulate concepts English seems unable to easily define — sent me a list of “15 Unique Illnesses You Can Only Come Down with in German.” She suggested I might find numbers 6 and 15 particularly relevant:

6. FERNWEH

Fernweh is the opposite of homesickness. It is the longing for travel, or getting out there beyond the horizon, what you might call… awaysickness.

 

15. TORSCHLUSSPANIK

Torschlusspanik or “gate closing panic” is the anxiety-inducing awareness that as time goes on, life’s opportunities just keep getting fewer and fewer and there’s no way to know which ones you should be taking before they close forever. It’s a Zivilisationskrankheit that may result in Weltschmerz, Ichschmerz, or Lebensmüdigkeit.

It’s almost as if Torschlusspanik was coined exclusively for me! Also applicable:

11. WELTSCHMERZ

Weltschmerz or “world pain,” is a sadness brought on by a realization that the world cannot be the way you wish it would be. It’s more emotional than pessimism, and more painful than ennui.

 

12. ICHSCHMERZ

Ichschmerz is like Weltschmerz, but it is dissatisfaction with the self rather than the world. Which is probably what Weltschmerz really boils down to most of the time.

 

14. ZIVILISATIONSKRANKHEIT

Zivilisationskrankheit, or “civilization sickness” is a problem caused by living in the modern world. Stress, obesity, eating disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome and diseases like type 2 diabetes are all examples.

Ah, yes, Karen knows me well. Either that, or I really need to keep my neuroses more to myself…

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The Weight of Memories

If I have any recurring themes at all in my blog writing — aside from babbling about Star Wars, of course — they must surely be the intertwined issues of aging and memory. I make no secret of the fact that I loathe the first and wallow in the second, and would dearly love to find solutions to both, i.e., to stop, slow, or otherwise improve my physical aging while also making certain my memories endure somehow. No doubt this is why some recent ruminations by the Scottish sci-fi writer Charles Stross caught my eye, and have continued to rumble around in my head since I first ran across them a couple weeks ago.

I apologize in advance for quoting so much of Charlie’s post — I might be pushing the limits of “fair use” here — but I’m frankly not sure of where I could insert ellipses and still retain the impact of his ideas. And for what it’s worth, his original entry — which you absolutely must read in its entirety if this subject interests you at all — is long enough that I’m still only quoting a comparatively small part of it. At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it.

Anyhow, here’s Charlie’s speculation on what might happen to the problem of physical deterioration in the near future:

Let us suppose that in the next couple of decades we develop a cure for the worst problems associated with senescence. We figure out how to reverse the cumulative damage to mitochondrial DNA, to reset the telomere end caps of stem cells without issuing carte blanche to every hopeful cancer in our bodies, to unravel the cumulative damage of prion proteins, to tame the cumulative inflammation that causes atherosclerosis, to fix the underlying mechanism behind metabolic syndrome (the cause of hypertension and type II diabetes).

 

We now have a generation of 70 year olds who in 20 years time will be physiologically in their 40s, not their 90s. At worst, they’re no longer in the steep decline of late old age: at best, they’re ageing backwards to their first flush of adult fitness.

 

You’re one of them. You’re 25-60 years old now. You’re going to be 55-90 years old by then. Unlike today’s senior citizens, you don’t ache whenever you get out of bed, you’re physically fit, you don’t have cancer or heart disease or diabetes or Alzheimer’s, you aren’t deaf or blind or suffering from anosmia or peripheral neuropathy or other sensory impairments, and you’re physically able to enjoy your sex life. Big win all round.

Dear lord, I like the sound of that… especially the bits about curing diabetes and still being, ahem, up for a lusty romp at 90. But wait! There’s apparently a catch (isn’t there always?):

But your cognitive functioning is burdened by decades of memories to integrate, canalized by prior experiences, dominated by the complexity of long-term planning at the expense of real-time responsiveness. Every time you look around you are struck by intricate, esoteric cross-references to that which has gone before. Every politician, celebrity, actor, blogger, pop star, author … you’ve seen someone like them previously, you know what they’re going to say before they open their mouth. Every new policy or strategy has failure modes you recognize: “that won’t work” is your usual response to change, not because you’re a curmudgeonly pessimist but because you’ve been there before.

 

Maybe you’re going to make extensive use of lifeloggers or external prosthetic memory assistance devices—think of your own personal google, refreshing your memory whenever you ask the right question—or maybe you’re going to float forward in time through a haze of forgetting, deliberately shedding old context to make room for fresh. Some folks try for rolling amnesia with a 40-70 year horizon behind them. You gradually lose contact with such people because they just don’t want to know you any more. Others try to hang on to every experience, wallowing in the lush, intricate texture of an extended lifespan until their ability to respond is so impaired that they appear catatonic.

 

Which are you going to be? And how will you cope with a century of memories contained in the undecaying flesh of indefinitely protracted adulthood?

Now there’s a wrinkle I confess has never occurred to me in all my fantasizing about immortality: being weighed down by memories and associations to the point of becoming non-functional… a pretty horrifying concept, really. In fact, I’ve always assumed the opposite would be the problem for someone with an extremely long lifespan, i.e., not being able to remember things. During the ’90s, I became a tremendous fan of the Highlander movie-and-TV-series franchise, especially the television series starring Adrian Paul, and while I learned to overlook such improbabilities as people being able to hide broadswords under short jackets, the one thing that always bothered me was the way our heroes always remembered fellow immortals they’d encountered for five minutes several centuries earlier. Personally, I can’t remember some of the people I worked with every day only a few years ago, let alone someone from the 1700s. Just once, I would’ve loved it if some black-clad hulking bad-ass had said, “At last… vengeance is mine!,” only to have Duncan MacLeod respond, “Have we met? Who are you again?” (I suppose you could rationalize that The Quickening, the mystical force that makes Highlander‘s immortals, well, immortal could also somehow augment their memories — there is some suggestion that The Quickening is, in part, an accumulation of the knowledge and experience of the immortals who’ve been killed in battle — but of course it’s never explicitly stated that way.) If Stross is right, though, then Duncan and the others ought to be drooling idiots incapable of doing much of anything, let alone fighting and loving and selling antiques and such.

Which reminds me of another franchise entirely, the Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice. Specifically the characters known as “Those Who Must Be Kept,” Akasha and Enkil, the very first vampires, who never move, never speak, never show any signs of awareness, and who are watched over and protected from harm by younger immortals. It’s always something of a mystery to the other vampires as to why, exactly, they have withdrawn and become essentially statues… perhaps the cause is something like what Stross is proposing… the weight of memory has finally overwhelmed them.

Or perhaps it’s another problem entirely that’s suffered by Rice’s immortals: the fact that the world moves on and evolves, while they themselves, and specifically their paradigm for viewing the world, does not, at least not without them making a real effort to keep up. One of the recurring ideas in the Vampire Chronicles is that the older vampires create younger proteges, in part, to help them get along in the modern world that they do not understand. In the recently published Prince Lestat, the title character, our brash, irrepressible, unstoppable hero of the whole series, admits he has a weakness when it comes to modern technology. He is, in fact, quite hopeless with computers and cellphones… he’s learned to use them several times, but if he neglects them for any stretch of time without using them, he loses his skills with them and has to begin all over. This is highly plausible to me… and in fact, I feel that way quite often myself and I’m only four and a half decades on this earth. Could anyone raised in a particular time and place realistically expect to function after a century or two of change, even if you make an effort to remain up to date? Wouldn’t the world eventually become so strange, so alien to your original starting point, that you may as well be another world altogether?

Maybe that’s where Stross’ idea of abandoning earlier memories becomes necessary. But I have to admit, that notion is just as horrifying to me as becoming completely dysfunctional. The line “you gradually lose contact with such people because they just don’t want to know you any more…” is terrifying to me in that it seems almost inhuman in its emotional coldness.

Interesting food for thought, isn’t it? And yet… even with the memory-related downsides, the idea of conquering the ‘betes and being physically much the same as I am now in another 50 years… that’s pretty irresistible even with the costs involved…

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Looking Back Because That’s What We Do

I don’t know about you guys, but 2014 was a mixed bag for me. I guess all years are, really, but this year… I simply cannot recall another when I have so often found myself at a loss for words, so often felt utterly exhausted by current events. Not outraged — although there seemed to be plenty of that to go around — but just… tired. Worn down and fed up with the never-slackening torrent of disheartening awfulness… everything from the right’s inexhaustible fear and loathing of President Obama to a steady undertow of hysteria about the Ebola outbreak (which suspiciously dissipated immediately after election day…), the rise of ISIS (or ISIL, or whatever the hell they’re calling themselves this week), Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan and Israel, Vladimir Putin, and god knows what else. Then there was Gamergate, Ferguson, and the torture report. Missing airliners. Stephen Collins and Bill Cosby. Robin Williams… Jesus, Robin Williams, man.

Closer to home, I’ve watched helplessly as friends have lost loved ones this year, and confronted their own life-altering chronic illnesses. I myself lost a couple of beloved pets — first, my little buddy Hannibal-cat to the heavy traffic in front of my house, and then my mom’s horse Sonny, who had been a fixture of the Bennion Compound since I was a teenager — and I’ve seen my father deteriorate into a little old man, complete with stooped shoulders and shuffling walk, seemingly overnight due to a bad back.

In the past twelve months, I’ve become aware of — and increasingly resigned to — the reality that certain things I used to take for granted, things I’ve always said I’d get around to “someday,” are no longer options for me. I can feel myself letting go of dreams I’ve always had, and that scares the shit out of me. And I’ve felt increasingly alienated from the pop culture that has always been central to my identity, but no longer seems to speak to me, by and large. When I overhear people talking about the popular and acclaimed movies and TV shows these days, I feel… left behind. Obsolete. And I’ve found myself thinking often of a line from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, one of the moments of that flawed movie that rang true for me, when Indy is looking at a photo of Henry Sr. and his colleague remarks, “We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.” I’m not quite to that point yet… but I can see it in the headlights up ahead.

And yet, for all that, I’ve also felt surprisingly contented during 2014. I don’t think I’ve ever been as comfortable with loving the things I love as I have over the past 18 months, during which I’ve attended four separate media conventions — two iterations of Salt Lake Comic Con, the spin-off Salt Lake Comic Con Fan eXperience (FanX), and FantasyCon — and met a lot of the personalities who populated my imagination during my geeky youth. I marked my unprecedented ninth year in my job as a proofreader at a major ad agency, I (mostly) stopped arguing politics with people whose minds I know I will never change, and I’ve maintained (more or less) my health and weight loss for the second year running (it’ll be three years in March). I’ve been confident enough in myself to take genuine pleasure in the accomplishments of my friends — notably our colleague Kelly Sedinger becoming a published author, and my lovely Anne finally extricating herself from a soul-crushing job and landing in one that promises to open up a whole new world for her… seriously, no hyperbole!  And there have even been some positive things in the news, too. I was absolutely captivated by the Philae probe’s adventures on Comet 67P, and then just in the last couple of weeks, the unexpected thawing of relations with Cuba, something I’ve favored for years. And there was the pure joy of Guardians of the Galaxy, the most unambiguously good time I’ve had at the movies — and the first geeky thing I’ve found myself obsessing over to any degree — in several years.

So as I said, a mixed bag. Looking ahead to 2015, I see more of the same, basically. I hope to do better with this blog, and to get on top of some long-simmering projects. There’s a new Avengers movie to look forward to, and Episode VII of course. And Anne and I are finally making serious plans to travel to Scotland, something we’ve been dreaming about for over a decade, so there’s that, at least…

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