Category Archives: Life and things

Who’s a bully, then?

Several years ago we used to put bird seed out for the parrots. While lorikeets mainly feed on nectar, a lot of the other breeds like cockatoos, corellas, and pink and greys, like seed. The trouble is, at first you get a trickle, then you get a flood and there’s this pushing, shoving, jostling bunch of birds all after getting a beak into a bowl. And that can lead to spreading diseases like the truly awful beak and feather disease.  Although its worst manifestation occurs in sulphur-crested cockatoos, the virus can be transmitted to other parrots. In fact, it can affect birds like wedge-tailed eagles when they eat an infected bird.

So I don’t put out seed anymore.

These photos date back to when I did. There’s bird seed in the bowls. One solitary sulphur crested came down to take a look and liked what it saw. But it didn’t want to share with any of the lorikeets.

The lorikeet isn’t impressed with the new arrival

The cockatoo pushes its weight around

The lorikeet tries to stand its ground

But in the end it’s just too small

Um… does any of this remind you of politics?

Humans are tribal. It’s hard-wired into our behaviour, one reason why we, as a species, have been so successful. It’s also why we fail on a global scale.

The UN was a good idea that is now well past its use-by date. It is ham-strung by the power of veto afforded to six countries, and it is riddled with corruption. Rich, powerful countries – I won’t name names but they remind me of sulphur crested cockatoos – buy votes from small, impoverished nations, like lorikeets. The ‘debate’ over whaling is a glaring example, as is the ineffectual posturing over Syria. Self-interest dominates the debate. That, and wealth. The same things happen in global sporting bodies such as FIFA the Olympic Games, cycling, cricket…

A similar pattern is emerging in Western politics. ‘Our’ politicians aren’t listening to the people anymore. In Australia, where voting is compulsory and where we have a strong, two-party system, votes for the two main parties is eroding fast. We’re turning to smaller groups who more effectively reflect our mindset, be that the Greens, One Nation, or the new Australian Conservatives. Judging by my Facebook feed, voters in the US and the UK are similarly disenchanted with their governments.

And what about ‘globalism’, that necessary precursor to a global parliament like the UN, where every country shares its resources and its wealth? Once again, it’s a nice idea.

I’m beginning to think that globalism is one of the main reasons why levels of pollution in our oceans and cities have soared. We catch fish in Australia and send them to China to be cleaned, scaled and wrapped in plastic to send back to us. OF COURSE they’ll send us back the same fish, how could you doubt it? We can get any vegetable, any time of the year – grown on the other side of the world, packed in plastic and sent to our supermarkets. When I was a kid my brother used to catch crayfish off the moles at Fremantle harbour, a yummy treat for all the family. Now, a little cray which he wouldn’t have bothered with costs so much at the supermarket I don’t even look. Meanwhile, crays from Western Australia are put on a plane still alive, and flown to the Japanese fish markets.

Seems to me we’d be better off living simpler lives, eating what’s in season, making do.

Whales and dolphins, oh my

The annual whale migration from the Antarctic up both coasts of Australia is underway. Numbers are growing and though it’s early days before the main influx, there are quite a few whales in the Bay. I decided to take advantage of some wonderful cool, calm, Winter weather and go off on a whale watch to see what we could see. I went with minimal expectations – Hervey Bay holds a *lot* of water and though whales are big, they’re scattered and they spend a lot of time beneath the surface, so they can be hard to find. But I was pretty sure we wouldn’t go back to port without having seen a whale up close and personal.

I was right, of course.

Freedom III is one of Hervey Bay’s small fleet of about seven whale watch boats. I’ve been on all of them and they all offer great value for money. But each has its own niche, if you like. Some feed you, one’s a yacht, one’s large with heaps of deck space, some go out for short trips, others spend most of the day. Since I live here, I’m happy to dedicate the whole day to whale watching. It’s about a 45 minute trip from the harbour into Platypus Bay off Fraser Island where the whales are mainly seen, which means if you’re on a four-hour tour, that’s actually two and a half hours up where the whales are. That’s just fine in peak season (August-September-October) when it’s kinda sorta wall to wall whales, but not so early in the season. Freedom leaves at 9:30 and gets back at 4pm, which gives us five hours to find pods. (A ‘pod’ is a group of two or more whales. They don’t stay together for long, it’s more like meeting a buddy and saying ‘hi’, then going off on your own.) While you’re out on the boat, you get morning tea (profiteroles and warm scones with jam and cream), lunch (chicken, roast beef, potato salad, mixed salad with fetta, warm dinner rolls), and afternoon tea (cheese, biscuits, and fresh fruit). You can buy alcohol and/or fizzy drinks, and water, coffee, and tea are on the house.

Context; boat, two whales, and Fraser Island

The weather was superb – few clouds, not much wind, flat sea. Freedom carries 45 passengers, but there were certainly less than thirty, so we had plenty of room.  The vessel headed on up past Moon Point into Platypus Bay and we soon encountered a young humpback who hung about at a distance before he disappeared. Oh well. I suppose some whales are shy. Moving right along.

Curious youngsters checking us out

A couple of youngsters came over to say hello. They’re smart and they’re curious. They can see and hear underwater much better than we can, so even if their eyes are below the water, they can still see the humans waving at them. We caught a few spyhops (that’s when they put their snouts above the water).

Whales are unpredictable critters. One pod we visited splashed around and checked us out, but then the whales went quiet, so we went off to find some others. That’s when we saw our first breach – behind the boat. The two we’d been with decided to perform. Bugger. But that’s how it is with wild creatures. We were in their country and they were just doing what whales do.

I did manage to get a series of shots of another breach. It’s always amazing to see a huge creature fling itself out of the water with a couple of flips of its tail. These are not very big whales. At this time of year most of the whales are juveniles, not sexually mature. You could say they’re whale teenagers. But even so, they’re big. A whale calf is born at about four and a half metres, and they grow fast.Further out in the Bay we were treated to a supporting act from a few of the local bottle nosed dolphins, who surfed the bow. Freedom, like all the whale boats, is a catamaran. Each hull played host to a dolphin. In fact, they were VERY disappointed when we slowed down for a whale encounter. The dolphins went over to the whales to have some sort of fishy conversation. We were told the dolphins surf the whales, too. Whales can travel very fast when they want to, creating a bow wave under their bodies. The dolphins surf on that, the same way they surf the boat.

One dolphin in particular hung around, aware, I’m sure, that we would have to leave and that then we’d pick up speed. Every time the skipper moved the boat he’d be back, waiting for some action. He had a short last run before we moved out of his territory.

All in all, it was a great day, exceeding expectations.

 

 

Big Brother is watching you

It’s quite funny looking back at the olden days when 1984 was still a future date on the calendar. 1984 was published in 1949, the year before I was born (how about that?). I read the book at school, I think, and I remember the discussion when THAT year finally arrived. Well, that year passed by with barely a whimper. Computers were still toys for playing games, or bloody great edifices used by banks and the Department of Defence. A wall still split Berlin. People still had to read paper books and the Post Office delivered letters. The IBM PC was only just beginning to make its bid for the hearts and minds of home users – even with the truly awful IBM XT with its 4-colour, lousy resolution screen and its measly 360kb floppy drive. And the Internet was science fiction.

Maybe George Orwell’s conceptions about the future didn’t quite fit the real 1984 – but I think the world has caught up in the last decade or so, indeed, leaving his imagination in its wake as it rushed past.

Recently I (and many others) have struggled with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679, where all web sites which receive visits from EU residents must disclose how they use information they collect about people. Lately there have been calls for rules about how facial recognition software is used. It’s all very well for getting through immigration at the airport but the software is playing a much greater role in life in places like China. It’s always sold to the general public as a way of catching criminals and the like, but the fact is the idea of ‘privacy’ is a fast-diminishing concept.

To some extent people accept that there’s a trade-off between privacy and convenience. CCTV in public places helps to make us safer. If Google knows where we are, it can find restaurants for us or recommend a route to a museum. If a facial recognition camera detects a murderer in a crowd at a football match, that’s great. But although the algorithms are getting better, the matches are not always correct, which might be a bit sad for that unfortunate individual in a place like China. Apart from that, everybody’s face is scanned. Big Brother will know (should he care) who went to that football match, even which colour scarf he/she was wearing.

Australia is not a police state, but the Government is collecting more and more information about us. It already has our tax records and if we receive any form of Government subsidy, such as pensions, education support, or unemployment benefits, we have a record with that amorphous octopus, Centrelink. And we also have a Medicare card, which gives us access to subsidised prescription medicines via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and bulk billing for a few medical services.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the Government’s latest idea is just such a one.

I can imagine the conversation. “I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t we collect everybody’s health records and store them so that any doctor can look them up? Let’s say you live in Brisbane and you’re on holiday in Melbourne and get sick. You go to a doctor and that doctor can look up the records to find out what medication you’re on, what you’re allergic to…”

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

What could go wrong? Er… let’s see. What if an insurance fund could find out you had an existing condition? What if you had an embarrassing disease you didn’t want the world to know about? (AIDS, for instance) What if the information held about you was just plain wrong? (Here’s an example) But that wouldn’t happen, and of course we can trust the bureaucrats to keep our data safe and private. Here’s what the department itself has to say about these issues.

Remember that locked filing cabinet somebody bought at a secondhand shop? It turned out to be full of recent, confidential cabinet papers. Oops. Here’s the story.

According to the GDPR rules people must opt in to any scheme collecting private data. But this is Australia. The new MyHealth record is going to be created for you whether you want it or not, administered under the ubiquitous MyGov umbrella. They’ve been very quiet about that, and even quieter about being able to opt out. Thanks to Janet Albrechtsen, a respected journalist (a real one) with The Australian for writing an article about this. (No link because it’s a subscription paper.) The comments it attracted were interesting. Quite a few doctors elected to opt out of the scheme because of fears about accuracy as well as privacy.

Based on several comments and concerns, I’ve opted out. You can opt out of the scheme until 15 October 2018. Follow this link to find out how.

It seems to me 1984 was a long time coming – but it’s even bleaker than Orwell envisaged.

 

The birds down the beach and other things

Ho hum. The Football World Cup is coming to its conclusion and many of the people I know who are interested in the round ball game were hoping for a France-England clash. I must admit there would have been something historically satisfying about a France-England clash. The Poms might finally have got their own back for the Battle of Hastings.

Oh wait. That was Agincourt, wasn’t it? The French were probably hoping to get their own back for the Battle of Waterloo.

The Frogs and the Poms are best mates these days, ever since WW1, which ended slightly fewer than one hundred years ago. But they were bitter enemies for many centuries before that. Alas, it is not be. The last semi-final has now been played, and it seems England will have to wait for a few years more. Croatia beat the Poms 2-1, so the grand final will be France vs Croatia, which does not have the same weighty historical significance. I expect the Croats won’t care.

To be honest, I’m not very interested in the round ball game. There’s far too much tiggy-touchwood passing and histrionics from overpaid players who roll around screaming when somebody clips their ankle. In the men’s game anyway. The women tend to just get up and get on with it. Of course, they don’t get paid as much…

The Australian team made its expected exit early in the piece, beaten by the French. Somebody pointed out that the fellow who scored the winning goal for France was ‘worth’ more (in terms of salary) than the entire Australian team. That says something. Personally, I don’t like it. It’s no longer sport, it’s an overpaid circus. Yes, I know cricket players and rugby/AFL players get paid a lot, too, but not in the millions and millions paid to these fellows.

The best football news I’ve heard lately is that 12 Thai kids and their coach are back above ground. Such a wonderful thing to get some good news for a change.

Oh – and in the State of Origin Rugby League (which is a HUGE thing in Queensland and New South Wales)  the Cane Toads (Qld) beat the Cockroaches (NSW) in the third of a three-game series. NSW had already won the series – but Don’t. Call. It. A. Dead. Rubber. (I wonder why they call it a rubber?)

If football’s not your thing you can always watch the tennis at Wimbledon. Sorry, I’m not a tennis fan, either. But even I think it’s great to see the oldies doing so well. Carn Roger, carn Raffa, carn Serena. (‘carn’ is Australian for ‘come on’.)

I was delighted to see that the officials at Wimbledon have refused to move the mens’ grand final to accommodate the football world cup final. After all, it’s tradition.

And now for something Quite Interesting – birds at our beach.

This Brahmani kite is one half of a couple of pairs who hang around the beach. It has just caught/found a sea snake for supper and is carrying it off.

Pelicans are often seen around the Torquay area or at the pier. These three are in perfect formation, flying low across the water.

There’s a couple of pairs of ospreys with territory on the beach, too. They’re often seen around the pier, on the rocks, or in their favourite beachfront trees. This one has just taken off after a bath. The ospreys and the kites seem to exist quite equitably together. They’re often seen in fairly close proximity to each other.

An Australian white ibis comes in to land amongst its fellows foraging at low tide. They are the local scavengers, rummaging around in bins for scraps and hanging around people trying to eat their fish ‘n chips. But they come down here for their natural food, too.

Of course we have the ubiquitous silver gull. This one’s just landed on the shore. Unlike pretty much everywhere else in Australia, our gulls don’t mob people for food. There’s usually plenty for them to eat, what with fishermen leaving fish carcasses on the beach.

And that will do for this Saturday. Enjoy the sporting blockbuster of your choice, and I hope your team/player wins.

 

The rythmn of life

The start of a new day

I don’t know about you but I’m getting a little bit sick of reading about ISSUES such as the price of electricity, equitable distribution of GST, ‘single use’ plastic bags that aren’t, and Donald Trump. And Brexit. Not that these matters are not important – they are. But they become depressing, so for this Saturday I’ll show you a few pictures of Hervey Bay in Winter – a season we actually love, with warm days, cool nights, lower humidity, and not much breeze.

Those conditions mean we often get night time mist, which I can translate into the picture at top when the sun comes up, its rays lancing between the branches.

The sun at a low angle enabled me to take this photo of a backlit cordyline. The green circle is lens flare – light reflecting inside the lens.

A shower can bring its own reward. This perfect double rainbow was a glory to behold. The entire arc was visible, but my lens couldn’t quite manage the width.

Bright, calm days are lovely at the beach at Scarness

It’s a bit cool for the locals, but visitors from Europe or the southern states of Australia are right into the water. The seagulls are talking about this pair.

The Brahmani kites watch proceedings from a beachside tree above theit hidden nest

Sometimes the sun has to do some burning off just after dawn. A pelican watches a paddle boarder set out

This large flock of cormorants decided to move position further down the beach. They were absolutely silent most flying just above the water

You have to walk a loooong way out to find water deep enough to swim

The next day the mist was even thicker. It didn’t deter the fisherman, though. Or the walkers. You can just see the Brahmani kites half way along the rocks at the back behind the fisherman

Here are the kites in close up.

The sun eventually did break through

And there are always seagulls. Interesting point – unlike places like Perth, the gulls here are not scavenging pests. That’s left to the ibises (aka bin chickens).

The mist clung to the cobwebs in this beachside casuarina

And here’s a sunset, just to prove we sometimes do get clouds.

I hope you enjoyed – we certainly did.

Renovating sucks

Before and after

For the last couple of weeks our house has been a mess. We decided it was time to fix up our bathroom, ensuite and toilet – which also meant relaying the laundry floor. Pete and I had to share the ensuite, a small room with a shower and a toilet and not much else. But at least we had a second toilet/shower. I can’t imagine what people have to do if they have only one bathroom. Hire a portaloo?

Wouldn’t that be fun if you need the toilet at 2am? Ha. Reminders of long gone days when I was a child in Shenton Park, where the toilet was outside.

The first job was stripping the rooms down to nothing. First the existing bath, hob, shower screens, toilet and vanity were all removed. The tiles are stuck onto cement sheeting, and the guys just cut off the cement sheeting, tiles still attached. That took a couple of days. The floor tiles were broken off with jack hammers and crowbars – both layers. In the past somebody had re-tiled on top of existing tiles (which happened to match the rest of the house). Seems odd to me.The new tiles they’d laid on top didn’t match at all.

Copious quantities of dust and noise were produced. Then floors were leveled and new cement sheeting walls erected. Then it all gets waterproofed with a special paint, which of course has to dry. At least it’s a break from the noise and the dust.

After all that the guys can lay the floors (stopping regularly to cut the tiles to size). They had to build the surrounds for the new bath, fit the bath, install the vanity. Then we had to wait for the plumber to set up the new taps (we’ve gone from two taps to mixers, which means changing the plumbing). Then there was a new drain for the new bath and the new toilet. We managed to get a load of washing done in a lull in proceedings (the weekend) because we weren’t changing the taps on the washing machine, but larger items like towels and sheets were left for later.

It’s all done except for the shower screens, which are made to order to fit the size. They’ll take a couple of weeks to arrive. And then … we can start all over again to renovate the ensuite.

Ask me if I’m looking forward to that.

And here’s a few lorikeet photos for something pretty to look at.

Plastic bag ban is a bit more virtue-signalling

fruit on trays covered in plastic

We have entered the Woolworths brand new world of no more single-use plastic bags. Bring your own (they have to be clean) or buy one of their sturdy plastic bags, or their tougher bags. Yay! Hurrah! /sarcasm

As it happens, the grey shopping bags are not the big problem. Many, many people reuse them as bin liners. I certainly do. Having said that, it seems most people are in favour of the change. It was tried for a while in the Target supermarket, but the plastic bags came back. Maybe people have finally been embarrassed into seeing what effects plastic has on the environment. It’s a good step.

But…

This is virtue signalling, the change you make when you want to look like you’ve made a change. Pardon my cynicism, but I always look at what’s in it for them (the retailers). Coles and Woolies will sell you reusable shopping bags – that’s always a plus. And they don’t have to buy those shopping bags and put them out for people. Another plus. After all, Aldi has been doing the same thing for years.

The fact is plastic take-home bags are just the tip of the iceberg. Single use plastic abounds in packaging. Biscuits often come in a plastic tray in a plastic bag. Meat comes on a styrofoam tray with a soaker pad to soak up the blood, then all wrapped in plastic. I could go on but you get the idea. I talked about this before, in a post called, on supermarkets and packaging. Anything packed in trays or bags is a labour saving device. The product comes with a barcode, making it easier to process at the checkout. No weighing and measuring, it’s all done before being placed on the shelves. Oh, and the product lasts longer on the shelves, another plus for the retailer.

What about plastic bottles replacing glass in most liquids, liquid soap (in a plastic bottle) instead of bar soap, bottles of water (!), throw-away plastic cups, plates, cutlery, drinking straws, sandwich bags etc etc etc. This is where we really need to make changes before we end up living in a world that is one big waste dump. In Asian countries it’s easy to believe we already are, but we in the West collect and bury our waste – except for clever countries like Norway, who use their waste in furnaces to create power.

There’s a looooong way to go before the world is a plastic-free place.

Give me a sec to dismount from my hobby horse.

That’s better. Now then, on to another teensy rant. Fashion in the twenty-teens.

I hates it, I does.

I mean, really? Pre-ripped jeans? They cost more than the standard denims (if you can find them) and they’re skin tight. Real stove pipes. They HAVE to be torn at the knee so the wearer can bend his/her knee. And if you want a pair of standard, comfy, denim, boot leg jeans without rips? Well, you might get a pair of levis for a hundred bucks or more. Me, I’m after comfort – cheap comfort. I’m past style. I’ve even let the holes in my ears heal over.

Edited to add: I’ve had jeans with holes and things – but they were EARNED through toil, and I was reluctant to throw them away because of the fabulous fit. This rant is NOT about those – it’s the shortcut that bugs me. And the laziness.

They pay MONEY for these???

Then there’s guys with unshaven faces. Apparently there’s a special razor to get ‘the look’. You end up with a two-day growth which I expect is supposed to make the wearer look ‘masculine’. No, sorry, yuck. It’s stubble. Have you ever tried kissing a guy with stubble? Might as well rub your mouth with sandpaper.

Pass.

[Sigh] Ah, the joys of being a miserable grumpy old fart. Better get off the hobby horse again.

Birds in my backyard

After last week’s post about a newcomer bird in the garden, it occured to me it might be nice to show you some of my regulars. So here they are, in no particular order.

A young blue-faced honey eater. The green around the eye goes blue as they age

Adult blue-faced honey eater

A magpie lark, also known as a mud lark, or a pee wee

Scaly-breasted lorikeet – smaller but bolder than the rainbows

Crested pigeon. Dumb as a brick

A baby butcher bird begs for food

An adult butcher bird fans his tail

An adult magpie ignores the baby’s begging

A baby galah tries his luck with mum (who’s not very interested)

A long-billed corella. We get the other variety, too

Gee, and that’s just a handful. I’ll show you some more another time.

 

 

Here we go again

We the Australian consumers are being shafted again. I have to admit we should be used to it. We pay soooo much more for just aboout everything, really, than people in the USA or UK. Cars, ride-on mowers, computers, TVs, books, DVDs. This is not just the exchange rate. Major items like cars and mowers cost TWICE as much as what they do in the US, even allowing for exchange rate, and shipping. Books have always been much more expensive here than overseas etc etc. Even Netflix costs. Oh yeah, Netflix. Higher costs and crappy choices, not a patch on what’s out there in the USA.

This particular rant is the result of Amazon’s (understandable) decision to not collect GST for the Federal Government. Here’s a quote from The Australian newspaper.

“Earlier today Amazon announced that it would block Australian consumers from having access to hundreds of millions of items and forcing them to choose from a slimmed down offer on the Australian Amazon site.

Australian shoppers will be locked out from buying their favourite goods on Amazon’s US and UK platforms — which offer hundreds of millions of items for sale — after changes to the GST on online purchases forced the online retailer to partly quarantine Australia from its international network.”

And you can read all about it here.

“Slimmed down” is damn right. Amazon’s new Australian store is a joke. We buy online for a lot of things, both for price and availability, but Amazon (AU) doesn’t have the range we need. Living in a small town is nice, but the downside is choice of retailers. For example, apart from the limited offerings in Big W and Target, there is one bookstore in the Bay. One. Guess how much shelf space is allocatd to SFF? I buy my ebooks from Amazon Australia because I have no choice (that is, I can’t buy from any other Amazon store). The exchange rate plus the GST means I pay much more for books than I would through Amazon US. Yes, we can buy through other vendors. But (you’ll love this – we did) we cannot buy ebooks from B&N because we live in Australia! Can I have another ! please? I mean, really, WTF? It’s an ebook, delivered through the ether. Kobo, at least, has grabbed a brain and will take our money AND deliver a book, and Smashwords never embarked on such silliness.

GST is a good idea. It places the tax burden on everyone on a pay-as-you-spend basis. BUT… if you’re going to ask a multi-national to collect tax for you, then the option to withdraw service is there. It would cost Amazon a fortune to collect tax for the Australian Government. I’m not suggesting the company shouldn’t pay tax. But I think it’s important to remember that Amazon doesn’t actually manufacture anything. It’s just a shop front. People who actually make the stuff (like me when I write a book) already pay tax if we make a sale. Amazon’s profits come from providing that shop front. If all the highly-paid accountants and financial advisers got together I’m sure they could come up with an equitable solution, like asking Amazon to pay corporate tax as (say) a percentage of revenue made through the Australian online store. Or something. That way, the long-suffering Australian consumer wouldn’t have to be shoved into the backwoods yet again.

Back to local news.

I had a new visitor to the Magic Pool Fence the other day, a bird I’d never seen before. Having taken pictures, I went through the bird book and discovered it was a spangled drongo (true). This one seemed pretty happy around the humans and was pleased to pick up a piece of the meat I threw out for the butcher birds. A very handsome creature, mainly black with iridescent blue-green tail, and the same colour ‘spangles’.

I’m not sure why they called it a drongo, though. Seemed quite bright to me.

We’ve also had a solitary kookaburra hanging around for most of the day. That’s unusual. They’re gregarious birds that notmally hang out in families. I suppose he wanted to chill by himself for a while. He certainly wasn’t injured or ill – happy to eat morsels thrown out for him and could fly well enough. He disappeared at night fall but returned mid-morning. That has happened for several days.

We get a lot of different birds in our yard. It’s always a pleasure to see them.

And let’s end with the ever-present rainbow lorikeets.

 

 

 

The magic refuses to die

It’s 26th May in Australia, but still the 25th in the USA. It’s a momentous anniversary, the first actual release of that juggernaut, Star Wars. That was the film’s name back then. No ‘episode 4’. No ‘A New Hope’. That would all come later, when George Lucas realised he had a really, truly block-buster on his hands. People queued around the block to see it at the thirty-two movie theaters prepared to take a risk with this science fiction movie produced and directed by a little-known newcomer. There you go. You never can tell.

It’s interesting how closely the date matches the release of the new Star Wars spin-off, Solo: A Star Wars Story. Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, made his mark in that first movie all those years ago. Forty-one, to be exact. It never ceases to amaze me at the series’ longevity. I can understand the movie catching the imagination of 1977. It was fun, had a smart-mouthed heroine prepared to take charge (still too much of a rarity) and it had lots of TECH. It was understandable tech.  Space-capable fighters  flying in space as they would in atmosphere. Moving from planet to planet in the same time as it would take to drive across town. Blasters that looked a lot like your average pistol. All the planets seemed to have pretty much the same gravity and all of them had atmosphere humans – and most aliens – could breath. Lots and lots of aliens, most of them humanoid. And wow, gosh space ships! And star destoyers like great big aircraft carriers in space! And fighters and the Millenium Falcon, with dirt on them and scratches and things.  As if somebody had actually used them! And fights and explosions and this AMAZING baddy!!!

The science was lousy, but who cared? I certainly didn’t.

I suppose movies, like most things, are a product of their times. The Vietnam War had ended (with the US having to admit defeat) but the Cold War was still on. The Berlin War stood proud. Kids did atomic bomb drills (in US schools, anyway). Star Wars was an escape, another world to enjoy when this one didn’t offer much. It’s ancient history that the first movie led to a second, and a third, then a flood of Star Wars books of variable quality. The magic refused to die. So George made his prequels, with Darth Vader as a cute eight-year-old and his future wife as the Queen of Naboo. I never could see what Padme saw in the petulant, teenage Anakin. A lot of other people couldn’t either. The prequels were universally panned.

And still the magic refused to die.

A new generation of kids grew up to hate Darth Vader (or love him if you were a bit weird, like me) and love Han, Leia, and Luke. Disney bought the franchise, causing deep concern amongst fandom. But it was a smart move from the studio, which has been repaid in spades for its apparently large investment. Star Wars toys and merchandise had never vanished from the shelves. Now they returned with a vengeance, along with the long-awaited movies, the animated Star Wars: Rebels in the vanguard. It’s no secret that I thought The Force Awakens was derivative crap. But at least Star Wars was back. Rogue One was very good. The Last Jedi I think drew a thick line in marker pen under the old guard. Let’s hope Star Wars 9 really will be A New Hope. (Haha). We have some new characters to watch – Finn and Po and Rey. We’ll see.

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56323217

I have hopes for Solo. It’s a return to the roots. The new young actor Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the role of Han Solo, has big shoes to fill. Think Han and you see Harrison Ford, who owned the role in the earlier films. However, from what I’ve seen it’ll be a fun romp taking place before the events in A New Hope (the original one). There’ll be no Force, no Leia – but there’ll be Lando Calrissian (played by Billy-Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back). Sure, it’ll be predictable, it won’t offer anything deep and meaningful that’ll leave you cogitating for days.

You know what? In these dark and dangerous times, that’s fine by me.