"Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Addendum

1/20/15, 8:26 PM

In a bit of follow-up to Greatest Hurts (1&2), yesterday I reached out to David Golding via Twitter and mentioned that the link to his Cast Away notes was dead. He just tweeted me that it's been fixed! Here it is!

As I recall, the post was something of a distillation of our online conversation, so it may sound familiar.

With the benefit of hindsight and, perhaps, the perspective of 13 intervening years, I have to say that I think David was right on the money regarding Bettina in this paragraph from his e-mail:

My thoughts on the angel wings: Bettina uses FedEx, but she always takes the time to personalise each parcel she sends. As we see, even birthday presents and divorce papers become depersonalised inside these parcels. They're all about the ticking of the clock that leads Chuck. But Bettina subverts that. I think Chuck sees it and recognises a different way of living, a way that he realises is worthwhile before he even adopts it. Bettina already lives in a quiet still place, so we see the destination of the film right at the start, and she's waiting (and not waiting) again at the end. The question of why do the angel wings connect Chuck to Bettina is really the question of why does Bettina make the wings. (I think I'm expressing this poorly.)

That's a remarkable insight, and I'm surprised to read that I didn't recognize it as such immediately. Pride of authorship on my part, I'm afraid. I think it really draws the narrative together in terms of where it all leads. Bettina inhabits a world where FedEx exists, but is not of it.

We're all trying to get off an island.

New Plumbing

1/20/15, 1:56 PM

Shortly before I left for New York, I'd been experiencing periodic internet outages. At first, I suspected it was a Comcast issue and a call to Comcast to send a refresh signal seemed to resolve the problem. Later, it occurred again and I restarted both the modem and the router, an Apple Airport Extreme (the last model before they went to the new "tall" configuration with 802.11ac capability). Again the problem went away.

Well, it happened again while I was gone, and Mitzi mentioned to me that the Nest was reporting it was offline. I assured her that it would continue to function as a thermostat. I asked her to do the usual unplug everything and plug it back in, and it would probably resolve itself, but I wasn't sure where the problem was.

Well, it turns out that the problem was with the router. When got home, I had a solid green light on the Airport Extreme, but nothing was reporting any wifi signal. And it wasn't just the radio, because I had an ethernet connection to my iMac and it was offline as well.

I'd purchased this one as a refurb back in September, 2011. I'm not thrilled about the longevity, but it's on 24/7 and we've had some near-misses on lightning strikes last fall, so maybe it's just one of those things.

A new Extreme goes for $199.00, with tax it'd be about $214.00. As a refurb, they're $169.00, around $180.00 with tax. Amazon sells them for $184.99, but now charges sales tax, so about $197.94. The Navy Exchange sells them at $197, and it doesn't charge sales tax. I also learned that, for now anyway, the NEX price matches Amazon - the stuff that Amazon sells itself, not its marketplace affiliates. So I hopped in the car and drove to the NEX and picked up the Extreme, did the price adjustment at checkout and walked out paying $185.00 for a new Airport Extreme, and I didn't have to wait for shipping to get my network back up. So for about $5.00 more than the lowest price, I got a factory-new one right away.

If I'd have been smart, I'd have exported the network configuration from the old Extreme. I did a quick look through Airport Utility, but didn't see it right there in the File menu! So I just figured I'd start from scratch. Setup was pretty easy, had to do a firmware update, but of course it couldn't see my two Airport Express wifi routers, which extend the network throughout the condo and give me Airplay in the kitchen.

I asked Siri how to reset an Airport Express to its factory configuration, and she found the right answer. The one I chose wasn't the top link, I picked the Apple Support page, which was third in the list of results she found for me. The tricky thing is you have remove power, press the reset button and then restore power, holding the reset button until the light starts flashing amber rapidly. Harder to do than it sounds.

Got both of the Expresses back online, but I had to do it from Airport Utility on the Mac, the iOS Airport Utility never reported seeing them, although it's possible I didn't wait long enough. Once they were online, Airport Utility on iOS reports seeing them just fine.

Then I had to go through and update the networks settings on my AppleTV, TV, Playstation, Nest Thermostat, iPhone, iPad and iPod. Kept the network SSIDs the same, but changed the password. Dumb idea. Would've been smarter to just reconfigure the network to use the old password! This is what happens when you don't pause and think a little bit before you do something.

Anyway, everything's back up and running.

Greatest Hurts 2

1/20/15, 8:55 AM

I fired up the PowerMac G4 this morning and did some digging around. I think I need to make this a real project because I don't know how long the G4 will keep cooperating. But Apple does build tough stuff.

It turns out I did have comments e-mailed to me from editthispage.com, but there weren't many relevant comments from that post.

But I did find the correspondence I recalled with David Golding, so I've added two of the most relevant e-mails from nearly 13 years ago. They may be slightly reformatted for clarity (italics should be Dave Golding, bold text is from a previous e-mail from me to Dave), but they otherwise accurately reflect the thoughts of two much younger guys!

This is an aspect of the current blogosphere that I find sadly lacking. We had a great deal more thoughtful discussion back then. I may simply be looking at the past through rose-colored bifocals, but little like this takes place today.

===================================

From: DavidRogers

To: David Golding

Subject: Re:hi

Date: February 18, 2002 9:15:19 AM EST

Hello Dave!

On Monday, February 18, 2002, at 04:00 AM, David Golding wrote:

Hi Dave,

Cast Away is a tough movie. People either love it or hate it, there are very few in-between.

Well I'm probably one of the few. (Probably one of the many. I imagine that, rhetoric aside, most people think most things they watch are alright.)

I based my observation on what I was able to read at the Internet Movie Database, where the reviews are either harshly critical, or glowing, with, to my view, very few in-between. The few people I've actually spoken to who've seen it didn't like the ending or were otherwise uncomfortable with it.

You think most people think most things they watch are okay? Hmmm...maybe those are the people least likely to actually comment on something in a public forum. Could be.

Do you think the title is deceptive pun? "Castaway" is what you are (if you're shipwrecked on a desert island), "cast away" is what you you might do.

I didn't think it was a deceptive pun. I think it was a deliberate (therefore a pun, I guess) misspelling of castaway to imply or suggest something unusual about the story. Something different from a modern Robinson Crusoe, which seems to be what many of the people who were unhappy with the movie were looking for.

While "cast away" may be something one would "do," in this context, it suggests what was "done" to Chuck Noland and his life, or perhaps more specifically, his identity.

I thought it had an excellent structure. You don't normally see structure that good in films.

Looking at some of the scripts, I'm really impressed with how the director brought finessed a lot of disjointed and sometimes trite ideas. His ability to convey information without dialogue or scrawls was quite impressive (though sometimes he just got bogged down).

Well, the diagram Noland drew for Wilson on the cave wall was a bit contrived, but I didn't notice that until someone mentioned it in a critique. That was about the only example of somewhat clumsy exposition, although again, I didn't notice it at first, so maybe it wasn't that clumsy. We're never taken off the island for a second, to see what rescue efforts might be underway, or to understand why he is never found. Zemeckis keeps us right with Chuck so we can begin to feel his isolation, and how that begins to affect his sense of self.

I enjoyed FedEx's complicity in a critique of their own culture. :-)

There were, I thought, an inordinate number of complaints at IMDB about this being one long commercial for Fedex. Frankly, again, it never reached my attention, it was just the company that Chuck worked for and was a big part of his identity. I think it's prominence got in the way for many people, perhaps they could have created a fictional company.

I've just reread your piece On Loss (Last Update: Sunday, February 17, 2002 at 7:54:31 AM). I'd read the first draft, I think, before that. I'm not sure what you've changed between drafts, other than more clearly breaking it up into sections (at least, I don't remember the sub-headings previously). I think it is a very interesting piece. I'm glad you take the time to really try and tackle the subject. Thank you for sharing. I'll probably reread it again in a few days (and I'll link to it).

I corrected a few spelling errors, and some grammatical errors. Re-wrote some of the less artfully- constructed sentences. (There are still far too many of those.) Tried to raise some of the prose a little above my very casual tone. Added a paragraph about victims of violence or other misfortune, and that needs to be expanded, although I'm most uncomfortable with that as I have little in the way of personal experience to cite.

It'll get better as time goes on. I haven't written the ending yet, because I haven't quite lived it yet.

Do you think that Chuck went through the 5 stages of grief? I can maybe see some but definitely not others (particularly anger). OK, I just realised what it was a minute after I wrote that, but I won't delete it. Anger is when he is going to kill himself. Like Bokonon he's going to climb the tallest mountain in the land and thumb his nose at God. That works very well for an explanation to something that had confused me a bit. (But I'll go on thinking.)

Ah, perhaps you should watch the movie again!

1. Denial - When Chuck collects the packages washing ashore. Does he open them immediately to see if there is something he can use to help signal for help, or make himself more comfortable? No. In fact, if you'll notice, he sorts them as he stacks them, as he did in Russia at the truck with the boot on the wheel ("This pile goes to Moscow, this pile to the airport.!)

2. Bargaining - When Chuck realizes he's in trouble, (out of denial) he begins opening the packages. The last one he comes to has wings on the box. I must admit, I'm not quite sure of the symbolism here, but I'll share it anyway. Chuck doesn't open this package. Perhaps he sees the wings as a symbol of an angel, and he's trying to make a deal with God, "If you let me live, I'll deliver this package." There's a connection with the woman who drew the wings as well, she was cast away too, if you'll recall the delivery of her first package in the movie. In any event, Chuck does deliver the package, noting, "It saved my life." Chuck paints the wings on his sail, so he sees some connection between his escape and those wings, so perhaps the bargain with God isn't too much of a stretch.

3. Anger - The clearest display was when he hurt his hand trying to make a fire. He's hungry, he sick of eating raw food, he's stuck on this island, you can imagine all the things going through his mind. The injury to his hand is just one more insult and he loses his composure.

4. Depression - we don't see the depression, which was okay (that might have been too much of a "downer" for the audience), but we're told about it, when Chuck describes his suicide attempt to his friend. Most suicides are the result of depression.

It is also at this point in the movie that Chuck, metaphorically, dies. He does the deed symbolically by constructing the rope and undertaking the climb to the peak, ostensibly to "test" his device. But after the limb breaks, Chuck has an epiphany regarding the nature of power. Chuck Noland, Fedex systems engineer, had power and control over a very structured, very artificial life. In the real world Chuck learns, as we all ultimately do, we have power over nothing (except ourselves). Chuck Noland died, and Chuck Noland was reborn. It was a very powerful scene. It is an almost perfect portrayal of Joseph Campbell's "the hero's journey." It was the most moving part of the movie, to me, far more so than the confrontation with Kelly.

After you've seen the movie once, you can then understand his conversation with Wilson in the cave as he's discussing his plan for getting off the island. Wilson (who, as we know, is really Chuck) apparently suggests that his effort to construct a raft and escape is merely another effort to kill himself. We hear Chuck answer, "Did you ever stop to think we just might make it?" or words to that effect.

The loss of Wilson after Chuck leaves the island is also symbolic (I think) of the constancy of loss as a theme in life. Wilson is a symbol of Chuck's life on the island, and he's left the island, so he's lost that life too. I loved the backward glances Chuck gave to his island after his raft cleared the reef. He's now out on the big open ocean, and though he's hopeful for rescue, life is again far more uncertain and uncomfortable than it was even on that island. But Chuck knows something now he didn't know when he landed on the island.

5. Acceptance - Also most clearly portrayed in the conversation with his friend. "Tomorrow the sun _will_ rise. Who knows what the tide will bring in?" What happens in our lives is not under our control, and it is not our task to learn to control it. Our task is to learn to control ourselves. How to go on breathing.

One of the criticisms I read was that the movie didn't examine Chuck's thoughts and feelings about having survived this ordeal. I just wanted to jump up and down and scream, "What movie were you watching?! Chuck DIDN'T SURVIVE, you imbecile!" (I get kind of exercised about this stuff.)

There were numerous references to death in the movie. Kelly's gift to Chuck of the watch ("It was my Grandfather's. He carried it on the Southern Pacific." Did you catch that reference? Southern Pacific (railroad)? Chuck's island. Interesting.)There was Chuck's suicide attempt. The burial of the pilot ("So that's it, eh?"). The funeral they held for Chuck in Memphis. And Chuck returning the watch to Kelly. An heirloom is passed on from the dead to the living.

I felt the rather ambiguous ending was perfect. Chuck was literally at a crossroads in his life, but he was a new person, almost a child, with all the possibilities of a much bigger world than his island. ("Where you headed, Cowboy?" "I was just about to figure that out.") Oh, how I love that scene.

Thanks for your note and your thoughts. I'm guessing you're a bit younger than me (25? From your FAQ. I'm 44. Take it from me, younger is better), so perhaps some of the issues Cast Away deals with haven't quite the same urgency for you yet. Maybe they will one day.

It's not important whether they will or won't, but it is important to remember - if they one day do have that urgency - that others have been this way before. Movies like Cast Away are a kind of cultural way of passing along this knowledge. I think it's a wonderful, wonderful movie. It illuminated some issues for me that nearly three years of therapy hadn't. It's time for me to get off this damn island.

Thanks for the note, Dave. I hope I haven't spoiled the movie for you. I look forward to more of your comments at Pah, and thanks for the link to On Loss.

Best Wishes, Dave Rogers

=======================================================

From: DavidRogers

To: David Golding

Subject: Re:hi

Date: February 19, 2002 1:44:34 PM EST

Hello Dave!

While "cast away" may be something one would "do," in this context, it suggests what was "done" to Chuck Noland and his life, or perhaps more specifically, his identity.

Done to him by whom? Thoughts of miracles did pass through my mind when he survived the plane crash (which I thought was quite horrific). I was thinking though, that *he* casts away his old life.

No "whom" is really necessary, the life experience is sufficient to account for the cause. I certainly believe life "does" things "to" you.

I don't think Chuck cast his old life away, it was taken from him. With it gone, he had to learn a new life. One way of looking at it, the plane that was a part of his identity, his career, threw him from his path, away from his destination, and deposited him in the ocean. Fortunately for Chuck, there was an island nearby. Later, his friends cast him away when they buried a box filled with memories of him. Chuck Noland, systems engineer for Fedex, was cast away by life. Chuck Noland, the human being, had to figure out what was left, and what he could do with it, who he could be.

There is a theme in Joseph Campbell's work on the hero's journey. It is that one hears a call in life, the call to adventure. If one chooses the safe path, and ignores the call instead of answering it in a positive way, one later experiences it anyway, in a negative way. Don't be distracted by the use of "positive" and "negative" as labels for the way, because each way will ultimately take one to the same destination, an authentic life. But one path is less traumatic than the other.

I don't think Broyles or Hanks or Zemeckis really wanted to suggest that Chuck was leading an inauthentic life, but the hints are there, I think.

I think the grounding in the real world and also the short hand for his life (and many others' lives) it affords are very worthwhile. I dislike fictional companies of any size, because they tend to become cyphers for real companies but confusingly because of the indirection.

Yes, I agree with this, but many people seemed to feel it was an excessive "product placement" piece for Fedex, although I failed to see how the totality of the movie suggested anything overwhelmingly favorable about Fedex. Frankly, I feel that many of the people who object to these types of niggling details do so in order to distract themselves from the larger themes that may make them uncomfortable.

1. Denial - When Chuck collects the packages washing ashore. Does he open them immediately to see if there is something he can use to help signal for help, or make himself more comfortable? No. In fact, if you'll notice, he sorts them as he stacks them, as he did in Russia at the truck with the boot on the wheel ("This pile goes to Moscow, this pile to the airport.!)

I didn't realise he was piling them that way. Heh. I did laugh when he piled them at all though.

It certainly isn't clearly stated that way, but the resemblance with the activity of the Moscow truck, and the story of Chuck's "borrowing" a bicycle to complete his deliveries strongly suggested to me that Chuck was still in his Fedex delivery mode as he was recovering those packages.

2. Bargaining - When Chuck realizes he's in trouble, (out of denial) he begins opening the packages. The last one he comes to has wings on the box. I must admit, I'm not quite sure of the symbolism here, but I'll share it anyway. Chuck doesn't open this package. Perhaps he sees the wings as a symbol of an angel, and he's trying to make a deal with God, "If you let me live, I'll deliver this package." There's a connection with the woman who drew the wings as well, she was cast away too, if you'll recall the delivery of her first package in the movie. In any event, Chuck does deliver the package, noting, "It saved my life." Chuck paints the wings on his sail, so he sees some connection between his escape and those wings, so perhaps the bargain with God isn't too much of a stretch.

My thoughts on the angel wings: Bettina uses FedEx, but she always takes the time to personalise each parcel she sends. As we see, even birthday presents and divorce papers become depersonalised inside these parcels. They're all about the ticking of the clock that leads Chuck. But Bettina subverts that. I think Chuck sees it and recognises a different way of living, a way that he realises is worthwhile before he even adopts it. Bettina already lives in a quiet still place, so we see the destination of the film right at the start, and she's waiting (and not waiting) again at the end. The question of why do the angel wings connect Chuck to Bettina is really the question of why does Bettina make the wings. (I think I'm expressing this poorly.)

I can follow you on this, but I hope you'll forgive me if I think you're giving Chuck just a little more credit than I would at this point. But I haven't come up with a completely satisfactory explanation either, so we can each enjoy our own interpretation. The extra material on the DVD doesn't illuminate the issue any further either.

4. Depression - we don't see the depression, which was okay (that might have been too much of a "downer" for the audience), but we're told about it, when Chuck describes his suicide attempt to his friend. Most suicides are the result of depression.

I think not showing the depression serves a couple of purposes. After "four years later" we're lead to think that Chuck's survived fine using his problem solving manliness over the environment. Learning that tried to commit suicide subverts that and sets up questions of how he did survive. It also keeps the film in balance:

Bettina - FedEx - Arriving - - - Leaving - new life - Bettina

The way in which the depression episode is related is then also very novel, helping to keep us from brushing over it. The depression and his rebirth are very complex and perhaps beyond the ability of the director to show directly (or for us to see if he did).

Yes, I think you're right on the money on these points. One of the things about Bettina that I just realized is that it seems pretty clear she's leading an authentic life. Perhaps I'm reading too much into the brief glimpse we're given of her, but I'm comfortable with it.

If I can work my way a little further out on this limb, it was on the wings of Fedex that Chuck was cast away, and it was on the wings of an artist that Chuck found his way back.

Don't start reaching for that saw!

I felt the rather ambiguous ending was perfect. Chuck was literally at a crossroads in his life, but he was a new person, almost a child, with all the possibilities of a much bigger world than his island. ("Where you headed, Cowboy?" "I was just about to figure that out.") Oh, how I love that scene.

I loved the ending, but I didn't think it was ambiguous. Rather here was a more considered Chuck who doesn't need to meet any deadlines. He can quietly assess all the possibilities before returning to face and smile in Bettina's direction.

I think we're in general agreement here. I meant ambiguous in the traditional cinematic d'énouement where the good guy gets the girl. Yes, Chuck is unambigously a new person, engaging life on its terms, not trying to confine it to his.

Yep, 25 in March. I can remember a couple of years ago noticing the change when I stopped railing at the world and especially older people, and started accepting them as potentially having wisdom from their experience. I've noticed that I tend to read weblogs of older people, which goes against the blogrolling norms I see.

Yeah, I can almost recall being 25... (joke). Frankly, Cast Away resonates so strongly with me because it resembles my life today in numerous parallels. Oddly enough, I found Joseph Campbell about the same time I discovered this movie (Campbell came first). But I distinctly recall the day I didn't answer "the call" and chose the "safe" way; only to discover, much, much later, there is no safety in life, that's merely an illusion. And that's not saying anything negative about life. Campbell's warning that if you fail to answer the call, you'll experience it later in a negative way has come remarkably true for me, but I'm not complaining. It gets you on the right path, the one you are meant to be on.

Hopefully, you're a wiser man than I was. There's a still, small voice in each of us. It's worth everything to pay attention to that voice.

This has been a pleasure.

Be well, Dave

Greatest Hurts

1/19/15, 10:46 PM

It's later than I think, but I got a DM (direct message) from an old online friend asking about something I'd posted a long time ago (January 26, 2002 to be specific). This isn't exactly everything I recall writing about the subject. At the time, we had a comments feature in editthispage.com, and I suspect that many of the thoughts were expanded upon in the comments.

I also had something of an ongoing e-mail discussion with Dave Golding, which may survive in on the PowerMac G4 down below. I'll go spelunking for that later this week.

In any event, I was able to locate the relevant post by looking at Dave Golding's Pah2 Archive, and I had the post in a NoteTaker file I created before editthispage went offline.

This isn't everything I thought about Cast Away, which is streaming now on Netflix, but I'll dig around the old machine and see what else might exist. (I might have had comments e-mailed to me, I don't recall.)

Cast Away

26 January 2002

Posted by David Rogers, 1/26/02 at 10:35:21 PM.

One of the more wonderful things about this networked world we inhabit is that we can quickly learn more about how other people felt about a particular experience or event, or, in this case, a movie.

I love movies. I don't know what that may say about me, I love to read too, but I do love movies. Specifically, there are two kinds of movies I most enjoy, those that are serious about not taking themselves seriously, and those that deal with themes all of us must face in life, either dramatically or comedically. Among those in the first category are The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, Big Trouble in Little China, Escape from New York (Somehow John Carpenter lost that deft touch in the stinker sequel Escape From LA), Tremors, The Burbs, Arachnophobia, True Lies and others. Movies in the second category would include The Matrix, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Holy Man, Galaxy Quest, Mystery Men (which is a comfortable fit in either category), Groundhog Day, Bridges of Madison County (surprise!) and now Cast Away.

Of course, I also enjoy the well done ass-kicking actioner, like The Outlaw Josie Wales, the Die Hard series, Under Siege (the one with Tommy Lee Jones) and others.

But I've discovered that some people can only take movies literally, and the presence of any theme or question being examined either eludes them or only serves to detract from the experience.

Cast Away is an extremely well made movie, and one that I will enjoy watching many times. But it seems to evoke a love/hate reaction from many viewers. Most folks love Hanks' performance, but really don't like the movie. Either they hate the ending, or they hate the long segment on the island. They hate the questions that don't seem to be answered.

Mostly, I just want to jump up and down and scream, "Don't you get it?! What movie did you watch? Pay attention!"

I've read some of the material written about Hanks' concept for the film, and frankly I'm not sure he even knew consciously what he was doing. Found here is this:

As Hanks and Broyles began to toss around ideas for the film, key themes, story points and character points began to fall into place. They agreed that Hanks' character should be a FedEx employee. "As a FedEx worker, the character would be dedicated to connecting people all over the world, just as his life would be run by time and his connections," Broyles explains. "And then we wondered, what would happen to him if you took this man, who's so connected, and disconnect him from everything."

This led to other questions: What happens to him on the island? How does he survive?

Which hardly sounds like they had in mind (consciously, anyway) a contemporary examination of the theme of loss and transformation.

How does he survive?

Well, the answer to that question seems to elude a lot of people, as in this quotation from the (largely negative) CNN review:

That leaves so many strong emotional opportunities hanging out to dry. How does Noland feel to have escaped death? What about his family and friends, and their reactions? His girlfriend has moved on with her life and gotten married, but their attempts at a doomed reconciliation are sketchy at best.

This is where I wonder what movie he was watching?

How did Hanks survive on the island? How did he feel to escape death?

The answer is, he didn't. He didn't escape death. This is where you have to pay attention. It's a metaphor thing, and I guess some folks just don't go for metaphors.

Chuck Noland died on that island. The man plucked from the ocean inhabits Chuck's body, and has his memories, but he's a different human being.

Maybe I've just been reading too much Joseph Campbell lately.

This is the hero's journey. A journey each of us has to take, though we spend too much of our lives in denial, trying to cling to our illusions of power and control. Hanks takes us on that journey with Chuck Noland, and it is a remarkable story.

There is a great deal of symbolism in the movie, and I've only seen it twice so I've got to go through it a few more times, but pay attention to Kelly's gift to Chuck. Let me say that again in case you weren't listening: Pay attention to Kelly's gift to chuck.

Go see the damn movie. Rent it or buy it or borrow it from the library. It is the story of your life, at least a major part of it. Pay attention. And here's a tip: It's not about finding out "what really matters," it goes quite a bit deeper than that. But kudos to those who see at least that far into it.

Once again, the usual disclaimers apply. I'm no expert on movies, metaphors or mythology. I'm making all this shit up. You're on your own.

Now go watch the movie.