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Camp, Texas, and Hiking: The Last Forty Days

The last forty days of summer have been a blur — but oh so much fun. Let’s start with the beginning of August. At the hottest and driest part of the Central Texas summer, we went to children’s camp. I have included both videos I made. One is the typical camp style video with the theme song for camp, “Aint That Funky Now” playing over it.

The one below it, well, those are my bonus reel. So, it is what it is. You will notice a lot of shoe tying and bunkhouse shenanigans. We spend a lot of time tying shoes at children’s camp. Tons. Of. Time.

 

 


I also read Texas.

For reals. I read the entire 1200 or so page tome by Michener. I bought it a while back at a great bookstore in Kerrville. It has been on my TBR for man years, though. Quick Review: The first seven hundred pages were nice, entertaining, and fun. Then it fell apart into stereotypes and tropes. He spent almost two-hundred pages on high school football. I could understand fifty, but . . . for crying out loud.

I can’t say I recommend the book, but it is one of those required reading kind of things for people who love writing, reading, and Texas history. It reminded me of a phrase I learned in college: mega kakon esti mega biblion. It is Ancient Greek and translated it says, “a big book is a big bad thing.”  I tend to agree. Michener could have used a brutal editor.


The last two weeks I’ve been on vacation, and Mrs. Greenbean and I hit three of the state parks nearby: Enchanted Rock, Colorado Bend, and Pedernales Falls. We love to go on hikes, and these were refreshing for my soul and for my heart. Pedernales Falls is an easier hike, but the trails are not as well marked. We may or may not have gotten lost. Colorado Bend was rugged and the most difficult hike we’ve done here. However, the trip down to Gorman Falls was worth it. The last video is me imitating my good friend John Duncan, who among his many talents is being able to give a weather forecast from anywhere at the drop of a hat. This my weather forecast from Enchanted Rock’s summit.

 

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Yesterday: A Thought Experiment or MAKE A MUSICIAN DISAPPEAR

As I mentioned on the social medias over the past week, Mrs. Greenbean and I went with one of the sprouts and saw the movie Yesterday. We absolutely loved it. It was refreshing to watch something that wasn’t a Disney rehash or Superhero in spandex. Yesterday is quality speculative fiction. I think there could even get an Oscar nod or two. Seriously.

But that is not what this blog is about. The premise of Yesterday is something goes haywire with the world and The Beatles never existed. Except the Main Character–Jack, who remembers them. A world without The Beatles is a very sad world, indeed. Play with me though. If you could erase a musical group/artist from the existence of the world, which one would it be?

This is not to erase them as a person or as people, just their musical experience and influence. Once I entertained this thought, it was not hard for me to pick mine. I would eliminate Pink Floyd. If I never heard another Pink Floyd song again, that would be okay. In fact, if I’d never heard a Pink Floyd song it make me wish you were here until all the money was comfortably numb, especially if mother asked for another brick in the wall.

There were other groups that came close. A world without Madonna would be a better world. I think the same is true of Journey. Maroon 5 could go, too.

I limited myself to one–and that was Pink Floyd, but as I sit at my keyboard imagining what could be, a world without Pink Floyd, Madonna, Journey, and Maroon 5 sounds like a very, very sweet place to live. I’m sure you have your one–one musician/musical group you’d like to disappear.

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A SPOILER Filled Review of Toy Story 4

I’m serious. I decided to shove spoilers all over this review post, so if you haven’t seen it yet and want to not know things, then you better click to another blog post like maybe this post about my new book or this post about Bernie Sanders or this random post about books I like

I warned you.

forky-toy-story-4


What I Really Liked

There are three things I loved about this movie. The first is the humor. Toy Story 4 is not the best in the franchise (that would be Toy Story 2) but TS4 might well be the funniest. I laughed out loud, which is rare for me, several times during the movie. The sight gags are amazing. Another thing I loved was the visual look of Forky. He has a certain Claymation appearance that tickled my nostalgia bone. The last thing I really loved was Bonnie’s poor dad. I felt for him, because his troubles, though exaggerated for effect, are all too real.

What I Liked

I liked they brought Bo Peep back.

I liked the idea of a road trip.

I liked the mannequins. I really loved the mannequins in the antique shop. Seriously, Toy Story 4 at times is a horror movie. I liked that.

I liked that at the end Woody, for the first time in his existence perhaps, was able to be himself and not be responsible for anyone else. He is the leader who steps down to be with his family. The pastor who retires. The parent when the kids all finally grow up and leave home. He can relax with the little shepherd girl who has his heart.

I liked the emotions the film evoked. These are real emotions of love, purpose, abandonment, friendship, and loyalty. Take tissues with you.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like the over-arching plot. It was paper thin, predictable, and to be honest boring. The plot held zero tension for me.

Though it was good to see Bo Peep, I didn’t like that they turned her into Rey from Star Wars. Seriously. She is a scavenger with a staff who is a great fighter and clever schemer. Mind you, I’m not upset that she is a strong woman–I like that part. What I don’t like is how much she reminded me of Rey. I think Bo Peep could have been more interesting as Ridley from Aliens 2 or perhaps Sarah Connor. Or Captain Janeway.

I didn’t like there was no short film in front of this movie. It made the running time of the movie seem brief.

What I Really Didn’t Like

There are two things I very much did not like about this movie. Keep in mind, it doesn’t mean I hate the movie, I just hate these two aspects of it.

The first thing I hated was the goodbye at the end. Buzz Lightyear and Woody are life-long friends. The movies occur in real time with us, which means they’ve been friends since 1995. For almost twenty-five years they’ve known each other. Their goodbye was terribly anticlimactic and far too brief. Yes, it was the emotional moment in the movie and many people will weep as they pull out a tissue, but let’s be honest that is because we the audience are providing the emotion here. The film cuts it short. This should have been even more of a gut punch. I can even see a montage of their greatest moments running. How awesome would something like that have been. Put that together with the way in which all the other toys — toys we are led to assume Woody has led and nurtured from the beginning because Woody was Andy’s original toy and they barely even say by-by. This bothered me.

The second, and from a story-tellers perspective the most bothersome, was the minimizing of the other characters. Buzz Lightyear not only has almost no presence in the film, he actually somehow becomes dumber. Buzz in TS 2 and TS 3 was bright, alert, and very aware of his place in the universe. This Buzz seems to not know what the young Buzz knew.

But Jessie? Poor Jessie. I think she has a total of two lines in the whole movie. All of the other characters are likewise moved aside.

The moviemakers dedicate this film solely to Woody. Even Bo Peep exist only as the fulfillment of Woody’s transition. Gabby Gabby and Forky make meaningful transitions, but both of these are viewed as Woody’s accomplishment, not their own discovery.

Overall

Overall, this is a great movie. My ranking of the franchise is 2, 3, 1, and 4. However, the nihilistic Forky is worth the price of admission and the mannequins are worth the popcorn and soda. You will love the movie. However, it could have been better. I think it could have been a lot better. It is safe for your whole crew, although Forky’s fatalism might cause some discussions later when you’re eating supper at Pizza Planet.

 

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What Would Free College Be Worth?–Meditations on Bernie Sanders’ Plan

Yesterday (24 June 2019) Senator Bernie Sanders upped the discussion among those candidates hopeful of winning the Democratic nomination. If I understand his plan, there are two parts to it.ap_738914881801-smaller_slide-c38afbf1af02da96e2f3e6688d883493538cf8cd-s800-c85

Part One: Offer free tuition at public universities and trade schools to everyone.

Part Two: Cancel all existing student loan debt.

ABC news reported it this way on their website:

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his most sweeping plan yet to tackle the increasing cost of a higher education, introducing a bill Monday that would make public colleges and trade schools tuition free and cancel outstanding student loan debt for everyone full article here

I completely understand why some people want these changes. It starts with the pernicious problem of history majors from Princeton with $150,000 in student loan debt only qualified to teach history for $45,000 a year. I feel for these situations, I really do. I was able to attend the college of my choice because of financial aid, but still had to borrow some money to finish. A four-year university is expensive and the most expensive schools and degrees do not always offer promising jobs in the future, especially if all you have is an undergraduate degree.

Yet there are problems with the Sanders’ plan. If you make something free, the value plummets. By excusing debt, those who have already paid their loans back and those who chose to go to local schools, work through, and leave debt free are punished.

I have five big concerns that make me opposed to Sanders’ (and Warren’s) plan. I want you to know, though, I could be talked otherwise, as these are where I start from not where I may finish. A solid argument could persuade me. I just haven’t heard the solid argument yet.

Objection 1: If tuition at public institutions, like my alma mater, the University of Texas, is free then it will only be a matter of time before a university education at a public school is downgraded to essentially be a biggie sized high school diploma.

Objection 2: When public institutions are so constrained, the dividing line between public and private will only increase (a distinction that is currently neglible) with no public school able to get into the top tier. This will further divide the haves and the have nots.

Objection 3: Many private schools are religious institutions. By excusing debt accumulated, say, at BYU or Notre Dame, the government is funding religious education. As a Baptist, I have a hard time accepting this.

Objection 4: Canceling that much debt at one time, with no obligation or payment of any kind from those who amassed the debt, creates two immediate problems. The first problem is artificially tilting the free market economy.  The second problem is the expectation of a whole generation of mostly young people that they can have someone else pay their debt. It undermines responsibility, which is something college is supposed to teach.

Objection 5: Going forward, what do we do? If you cancel the debt now, in five years there will be students with loans needing to be paid back. Is this a perpetual promise, because that would get expensive fast. Free tuition doesn’t cover the most expensive part of college–room and board, thus guaranteeing there will always be college loans and college loan debt problems.

I am cynical of Sanders’ plan, because the Democratic candidates are falling all over themselves to give away more and more free stuff in an effort to get elected. I have a counter proposal. It is three parts. Part one, increase both need based and merit based federal aid while putting tougher limits on how much money can be borrowed. Part two, instead of free college, spend money on healthcare and create a universal care system. That would take a big spending burden off the entire public. Part three, expand and make for easier application the methods of having individual student loans forgiven. Some methods already exist, but these could be increased to include things like volunteering at your child’s school or a local food bank, jury duty, or donating blood or plasma.