Fantastic Voyagers and Me

My sleep is bouncing around all over the place, with early-morning awakening and naps in the afternoon, very unlike me. And then sudden bursts of energy, cleaning and straightening like crazy, baking, etc. Again, if a little thing like a short trip and minor time change can upend your routines, your routines are probably too set. Mine, anyway.

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But last night, eyelids drooping big time at 7:30pm, I had to do something to keep from being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 3am. So I watched Downsizing, that Matt Damon film from 2017 that looked odd and then disappeared from my awareness. But Matt Damon. You know.

And I’ve enjoyed Alexander Payne films in the past, particularly Sideways and About Schmidt. I didn’t care that much for Nebraska, as I recall. Anyway, Matt Damon.

If you don’t remember hearing about it, the premise is that Norwegian researchers discover a way to shrink humans (but not their teeth or hair, interestingly) on a cellular level down to about 5 inches in height. They can live fabulous, opulent lives in a shoebox, where the value of their assets are multiplied a hundred times (a net worth of $150,000 turns into 12 million when you get small, according to one of the salespeople).

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You can read about it on Wikipedia, or you can just watch it, your call. I have no idea what I think, just that something I assumed was along the lines of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids instead kind of turned into Apocalypse Now. It got dark, in other words, and quickly. The actors were first-rate (particularly Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau, the latter of whom was amazing as she spoke in broken English with remarkable power). I dunno. It stuck with me for a while. Besides, Matt Damon.

I read these end-of-year lists of best films, music, TV, etc., and don’t really relate. I mostly skim, looking for familiar titles to see where they end up, but it’s impossible. I won’t see most of the films and can’t watch the vast majority of TV shows. I listen to new music but it’s mostly classical, because that’s what some of my family does for a living and I go along (and enjoy it immensely, but understand it’s not for everyone). Popular music flits past, barely brushing my consciousness.

Still, I have this amusing idea about making my own lists, except purely personal. I watched a lot of old stuff this year but it’s still worth mentioning. Maybe. I’m not sure how to figure that out, except poring over my Netflix and Amazon histories and who really wants to do that? And who really wants to know?

I wrote a column this week that probably comes off as sentimental and overly optimistic, and I think that may be the holiday season or just my natural tendency to seek out silver linings. It’s hard, since to me the primary story of 2018 hasn’t been political, but natural. We’ve had some really bad news about the future of the planet this year, and it’s hard to find hope. Maybe if someone figures out how to shrink us.

But I can’t ignore politics, although the horror show many of us have been watching shows signs of potential reversal, or at least some sort of correction. That would come from law enforcement, though, and perhaps a few brave political souls who finally see the writing on the wall. I don’t see, for example, the Democratic Party jumping in to save America (they’d be better at it than the current, rapidly dying GOP, but they’re still a mess).

The other notable 2018 story has to do with aging, which of course I’m going to notice but it’s still very prominent. We’re learning a lot, and it explains a lot. A recent article covered a longitudinal study of people (mostly) in their 70s who began exercising when the whole jogging craze took off in the 1970s and never stopped. These people seem to be the physical equivalent of folks in their 40s.

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This explains a lot, to me. I’ve been very curious about this age-relativity thing (again, being a participant), and while some of us are doomed by genetics or bad habits we can’t reverse, the answers seem pretty simple and obvious. Eat a healthy diet, mostly plants if you can. Exercise regularly; even a little makes a big difference, and walking is a great way to exercise. Engage, socialize, have friends—these are all very important, apparently, too, and again just make sense.

And again, all the proactive health measures we take are no match for the drunk driver heading toward you on a rainy night, or a mutating cell quietly preparing to change into leukemia. We can only do what we can do, but there’s good information out there and a lot of it came out this year.

I’ll review or not, if I can think of something fun, but in the meantime my trip has accelerated Christmas, and now we’re down to six days. Music must start playing, strings of lights are necessary, and I’ve got two more gifts to buy. John and I joined financial forces (which are pretty slim, and took some credit, unfortunately, but the good, interest-free kind I get some pleasure at exploiting) to buy my wife an iPad Pro, the 12.8” one, essentially a laptop (more powerful than most laptops, in fact), almost all screen and light as a feather. Truly a remarkable piece of technology and certainly overkill for my wife, who’s not about to be editing video or doing any other CPU-intensive activity.

But as my daughter pointed out when I was contemplating which model (my wife uses her iPad constantly, at work, on the bus, at home, and it was ancient; like, from 2010), the most important thing to consider is my wife’s eyesight. She’s blind in one eye now from the tumor, and of course she’s in her 60s and eyes don’t work as well anyway. This was my primary motivation, although it made me nervous and not just because of the expense.

My wife has a very utilitarian approach to computing technology. It’s like a vacuum cleaner to her. She doesn’t want to know how it works, or how to fix it. She just wants it to work, and she also gets a little casual. I watched her toss that iPad around a little and I started to shudder, thinking of $1000 of technology being used in such a cavalier way.

Then I realized my iPhone is technically worth about the same amount, and I hold that in my teeth sometimes while I pee. It’s a miracle I’ve never broken one of these things, not even cracked a screen. So who am I to talk. I’m just glad she can now see her music.

And even with our rash of storms that keep plodding through the area, mostly high winds (we had a tornado, a fairly good-sized one, touch down over across the Sound at Port Orchard, a rare event—we get maybe 2 tornados a year and they rarely do anything or even touch down, and this one caused some damage), it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Only a few more days of diminishing light and then we’re heading back up. Music is cranked, I’ve got more butter and flour and chocolate sitting on the shelves than I usually do, and I just spent a week with an angel child, all sweetness and stunning intelligence and just loved. He monopolized me, which my wife accepted with equanimity, understanding our roles. She’ll return alone at some point and all shall be well, but this trip required a guy who can pretend to be sea monsters and crawl on the floor and make funny voices and snuggle at night with this boy. My world is just fine for the moment, and I’ll take it.

Plus, Matt Damon.

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Chuck SigarsComment