Sally Salt Disgusted

Pity Party!*

I could have been having food and wine today, in a neat spot. I could have gone on a road trip with my folks to White Salmon, Washington, overlooking Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, celebrating the recent 80th birthday of my Uncle Bill P. (initial to distinguish from another Bill in my family, Uncle Bill W.) and visiting with relatives of mine who live in Copenhagen and enjoying a beautiful day...

...but I'm not, because by Thursday night I had a cold and the cold was still lingering this morning, so I begged off before Mom and Dad would have picked me up. It's the responsible thing to do, of course, but: feh.

Are summer colds especially annoying?

* exaggerated for effect
Whale fluke



by Christopher Walsh, 7/24/2021

Healing: needed.
Healing: good.
Healing: slow.
Healing: once more.

© Christopher Walsh, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Christopher Walsh (chris_walsh) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Good Omens

Hitchhiking to Truth (a review of a film from 2005)

I'll review a film I said I'd review 16 years ago. Yes, 16. I checked.

On Wednesday night I watched the 2005 film adaptation of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for the first time since that time in Eugene. I've thought about the film reasonably often during that time, and my feelings looking back on it were mainly frustrating ones.

That's still the case. I dislike most of the movie. It's overly loud, surprisingly juvenile, jarring in tone, and full of decisions that made and make me go "Huh?" Hitchhiker's Guide was always going to be difficult to adapt to film, as evidenced by how every attempt from 1979(!) until the mid-Nineties floundered and the eventual film took approximately 10 years to finally happen. (Weird to think that there hadn't been a huge hit science fiction comedy until 1997's Men in Black, which to an extent greased the wheels to get Hitchhiker's filmed. No, Spaceballs wasn't a big hit. Neither was Heavy Metal.) And maybe a genuinely good movie adaptation of this digressive, satiric story just isn't possible: a movie may not have the breathing space for the odd turns Hitchhiker's has taken in all its other forms*.

The movie's frustrating decisions include turning depressed robot Marvin into a sad sack, instead of the sarcastic smartass he was in every other version ("Oh, sorry, did I say something wrong, pardon me for breathing, which I never do anyway so I don't know why I bother to say it..."). Voice actor Alan Rickman did what he could with the lines, and man-in-suit Warwick Davis really threw himself admirably into the part, but the role is a failure at the script level. Sam Rockwell's George W. Bush-on-uppers performance as fugitive Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox gets old very quickly. I get conceptually what Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey) did to portray the alien-ness of his character Ford Prefect, giving him tics that you don't expect a person to have, but I had trouble connecting to the character here. (The sometimes unclear line readings don't help.) John Malkovich as religious leader Humma Kavula sleepwalks through his cameo, more interesting for the visuals (though the visuals aren't particularly funny) than for the mainly plot-pushing lines he has.

Martin Freeman does okay as main character Arthur Dent, the everyman from Earth at the center of the story, but often in a "Jeff Lebowski as The Dude" way where more things happen around him than to him. Great for The Big Lebowski, not so great here (a film with none of the offbeat greatness of Lebowski). Maybe the moment added to the film that's most characteristic of both the character and the earlier versions of Hitchhiker's is when Arthur sees an alien waiting room and quietly says to himself "I'm British: I can queue." I wish this film had had more quiet moments like that.

I found myself honestly impressed with Zooey Deschanel, who might give the best overall performance here. She's former Earth resident Trillian, who's had more time to adjust to the universe than Arthur has. Adams admitted that Trillian was a weak, redundant character at first, for reasons that were his fault as a writer; she really had nothing to do until the third book (I'd forgotten that he completely wrote her out of the second radio series), but at least here she's made more substantial and has more to do; I think some of the film's best screenwriting involves her, like when she uses the Point-of-View Gun on Zaphod. She's wistful for the home she left behind but open to the neat things that are possible in the rest of the galaxy. And when she gets mad, she has a point and good reasons to be mad.

The film's varying levels of cartoonish designing, on top of the loudness and jarring-ness, kept taking me out of it. For every effective visual like the spacecraft Heart Of Gold and the blocky Vogon ships (and the impressive Vogons, made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop), there's an overly cartoonish crab or throwaway gag-level alien.

The score by Joby Talbot often seems frenetic for the sake of being frenetic, and (more of a problem, I think) wacky for the sake of wackiness. The opening song is the earworm of earworms, and I'm not sure that's a good thing; bold choice, but I still don't know if it was the right way to start this film.

And the thing is, making a story in the early 2000s which has such Seventies roots may add to why it's jarring. By 2005, hitchhiking was a much-reduced aspect of the world (reduced still more, I'm guessing, now that we have Uber and Lyft). The deodorant gag, a throwaway line in earlier versions and given a plot purpose here, is another very Seventies thing. This Seventies-ness would have been less of an issue or not an issue at all had an earlier attempt to film Hitchhikers succeeded but, of course, that didn't happen in this world.

But. But. All the frustrating aspects of the Hitchhiker's film still lead to one particular sequence that honestly gets to me and moves me: Arthur Dent seeing the immense factory floor where entire planets are under construction. Arthur gets to take a break from being angered, bothered, or bewildered by the universe to see something huge, positive, and beautiful, and it clearly affects him.

In its many previous forms, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is informed by sadness: Douglas Adams often lived with depression, and had already had enough loss in his life that he understood what grief and loss felt like...and what it could take to feel happy again after grief and loss. And how to feel happy while living with depression. As funny and pointedly satirical as his work often is, that work still acknowledges the sadness that can happen in life. The fourth novel, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, is especially strong that way: it gives Arthur a happy ending by falling in love with the Earth woman Fenchurch. (Yes, I know Fenchurch is rather cruelly wrenched away from him in the fifth novel, 1992's Mostly Harmless: that book reflects how 1992, due to death and a key betrayal (sounds melodramatic, but I'm not exaggerating), was one of the most difficult years of Douglas Adams's life. I'm not surprised that Mostly Harmless is grim.) Happiness can take work. In the world of Hitchhiker's and in ours, it can take a lot of work. It's still worth the work.

I'll likely never revisit the 2005 film, but I will revisit the many other versions of Hitchhiker's Guide.

* Which include multiple radio series, retellings on LPs and cassettes, five Douglas Adams-penned novels (and one authorized sequel by Eoin Colfer, a book to which I was not kind), a computer game, a canceled second computer game, a 1981 BBC miniseries, even towels with the Guide's statement on the importance of towels printed on them. Hulu since 2019 has been developing a proposed Hitchhiker's Guide TV series; I don't know that show's status.

Dreaming of a job

The dream was specific.

I was in a small town. I'd moved there for a job, a newspaper job. I'd already started the job, writing, um, a movie review, which would be a wrong detail. A small newspaper isn't going to want its writers to start with movie reviews: you need to do news, likely several beats of news as it's a small paper in a small town.

But the town felt surprisingly real, by dream standards. Even by my dream standards, as the environments my dream-self is in are often both vivid and presented matter-of-factly. I saw several parts of the town: a main drag, a not-very-big shopping center, and small early-20th century office buildings — I said it was specific — plus an apartment building I'd moved into.

The less matter-of-fact detail of the dream: the owner of the newspaper, an eccentric woman, hadn't told me where the newspaper office was. I knew where I was living; I was looking for where I'd have my office. And I didn't find it. I tried: the owner had left clues that I was trying to decipher. Still, no. Perhaps Dream-Me should have opened a copy of the newspaper and looked for an address there, but Dream-Me didn't think of it. Okay, I mean I didn't think of it.

But, except for me writing something a small newspaper wouldn't need, the dream's details felt correct. I'd been in small towns like this one, whether Vienna, Virginia where I lived from 1984 to 1987 to Hermiston, Oregon, a town of under 12,000 people back then so it wasn't small-small but it wasn't big. Maybe an owner would be eccentric. Maybe I'd write again for a publication, paying me a wage to use words well.

The dream was specific in a way that, unsolved mystery aside, was almost comforting.

I won't be a reporter again, the way I was from 1997 to 2000. Ultimately, I wasn't good enough at it. Mostly I was okay, sometimes I was good, occasionally I was great, but my average was...average. It took me a few years of no longer working in media to realize that, but I did. I found other jobs. Some I did well. Some I did very well. Some I was just okay at. But Dream-Me doesn't usually work. And it struck me. So I blogged about it.

How will the next dream be interesting?
Admiral Ackbar

I had an idea for a blog entry.

Maybe it would have been interesting. Maybe it was worth sharing. Plus I like to blog, and to be in the habit of blogging, so that could have been positive reinforcement for me to do so.

I decided not to. I thought about the basic idea of the entry I was considering, and it hit me: it might sound like I was bragging.

Even a blogger can realize: it's not all about you.
Star Wars - Fly away...

What gets told?

I did not blog the entire time (Monday the 12th to Saturday the 17th) I was in Virginia for Robert's memorial.

Either I was busy or I was resting.

It's been a tiring time, for everyone in my family — for emotional reasons, obviously, but also due to dealing with Virginia heat and humidity, which I can handle but which I'm no longer used to, so it's an added stress — and we took it easy when we could. There were ups and downs. There was drama. There was almost-drama. There were laughs. There were difficult moments. There were wonderful moments.

Stuff happened. I could have blogged about it. But. One issue: limited internet access for most of my trip. Another, bigger issue: did I trust my blogging senses during the trip? Would I make good decisions about how to filter my experiences this past week so they'd be compelling blog entries? Would there be things I should blog about but forget to? Would there be things I shouldn't blog about?

A lot happened. What gets reinforced and what does not? What would make good stories and what would not? Would I over-remember some parts of this trip and not remember enough about other parts of this trip, based on what I wrote?

So not blogging was likely the smarter choice.

Things boil down to: we gathered. We shared stories, whether in a hotel lobby or over lunch or at the funeral home. We learned more about Robert. We made space for each other; sometimes we needed companionship, sometimes we needed to be by ourselves.

My one, shall we say, extracurricular trip — the one time I was with people not my blood family* — was seeing my friends Tarah and John, for dinner on Thursday the 15th. We covered a lot of ground on that visit. Tarah is a calming person; I feel better around her. John, her husband, is a good person. It helped to talk to them.

I'll recall, in a non-blogged way, what happened.

* Okay, pedants, other than when I was at, like, Dunkin' Donuts or Wawa or the nice bakery next to my hotel getting food. OTHER PEOPLE EXIST.


Virginia happened.

My family gathered, we remembered Robert Walsh, we did what we could for each other.

Now I'm home, as are Mom and Dad. And we'll see whatever is next.
TNG Darmok


The trip is soon. Tomorrow morning, in fact.

And I'm mostly packed. Been working through the list of stuff to do. Took more time than I'd expected to decide on shirts, especially since I don't have that many shirts.

I've taken it easy today, too. Got lap time with the cat and rested a bit. I don't have to do this in a rush, I don't want to, and I haven't. There is time.

Not sure how I'll feel when I'm on my way with my folks tomorrow. Or once I'm in Virginia, dealing with the reason we'll be there.

But it'll happen.

My first poem since May. A quick one.

A Breath-Time
by Christopher Walsh, 7/10/2021

It's okay:
You're allowed not to be profound.
Now, at the moment,
You don't have to be.
In a grind of a time,
With death and loss and anger and ills,
Where we couldn't even trust the air
(due to virus or heat),
You, I, Us
Had weight on our minds.
More than normal. Far more than normal.
Had trouble thinking? You weren't alone.
We're closer to Better:
To a time to have a chance to do more than survive,
To a time with more space to heal.
We're getting there.
We're not there.
(We're not there.)
(We're getting there.)

Where/When you can,
Take a breather.

© Christopher Walsh, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Christopher Walsh (chris_walsh) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.