Thoughts of: Hi Yo Silver!

With a thunder of hooves and the cry of “Hi Yo Silver, Away!”  Disney’s, “The Lone Ranger” has hit post production.  With Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp backing it, you’d think it would be easy.

It hasn’t been.  Delays and budgets have dogged this movie since its inception.  It’s scheduled for a July 2013 release, but was originally expected to be out back in 2010.  Johnny Depp has pushed for the movie and threw in a good chunk of his own money to give it the budget he felt it needed.  Just don’t expect to see him behind the mask.  Johnny Depp is playing Tonto.  In fact, his whole push for the movie was to build up the Tonto character.

The whole reason I wanted to play Tonto is to try to [mess] around with the stereotype of the American Indian that has been laid out through history,” he said. “…especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Rangers assistant. As youll see, its most definitely not that.  Entertainment Weekly

It makes me worry though about The Lone Ranger himself.  What are the plans for the character?  Johnny Depp was quoted as saying he wanted the Lone Ranger to be a “loveable fool”.

Huh?  What does he mean by that?

He did try to explain by saying he did not want the Lone Ranger to be a buffoon.  A clown bumbling around like an idiot.  That’s good.  Nothing would kill a movie and create more anger towards Johnny Depp than destroying an iconic character like the Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger is a character that seems to have some sort of karma attached to it.  Clayton Moore was THE Lone Ranger and it seems that every movie and television show made after him crashed and burned with the intensity of a nuclear bomb going off.  It happened so often, you almost expected it and wondered how it would hit the next version?

The only format I saw survive this “curse/event” is the comic book by Dynamite.

Dynamite Entertainment's The Lone Ranger #4 co...

Dynamite Entertainment’s The Lone Ranger #4 cover. Art by John Cassaday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lone Ranger comic was a reboot of the movie in the way the Lone Ranger was perceived.  While still seeking justice for those that killed his brother and fellow rangers, the writers made the character darker than Clayton Moore’s rendition. It was this darkness that caused the biggest amount of grief for the comic.

There’s a scene in the comic where the Lone Ranger loses his faith.  (It happens right after burying his brother and the other Rangers.)  He breaks into a store and gets drunk.  That enraged many of the Clayton Moore Lone Ranger fans.  I was lucky enough to have a great conversation about this with the gentleman that runs the “Clayton Moore, The Lone Ranger” website.

http://claytonmoore.tripod.com/

His childhood hero was Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger and hated how Dynamite Comics soiled the memory as well as the larger than life character.  To him, the Lone Ranger was and is the cowboy version of Superman.  A symbol of higher humanity that we can all aspire to.  I had debated that the comic version was more realistic and showed how we as humans could overcome our personal doubts and demons to become more than what we are.  In the end we decided that our viewpoints we completely opposite of each other and politely agreed to disagree.

This is the tightrope that Bruckheimer and Depp have to walk in their new movie.  You can not take an icon like The Lone Ranger and make him a fool.  What you can do, though, is make him naïve.

When the Lone Ranger first joins the Texas Rangers, he is young and just out of their version of the academy.  (If they had such a thing back then.)  His father and brother were both already Texas Rangers, so you can give him an overly romanticized view of what it means to be a ranger.   You can also fill his head with thoughts of King Arthur and being a modern knight of the round table.  (It’s why cowboys would turn their spurs down when walking on the wooden sidewalks in town.  The “Ching-Ching” seemed like the sound of metal armor clinking as knights walked by.)  Add to that the power of “The Great American” dream as told by politicians and dime novels of the time and that would be an acceptable viewpoint for the young Lone Ranger to have.  To be this great, larger than life person that all good Americans should strive to be.  Tonto would be the other side of the coin.  He represents the great American that lived here for centuries that gets unceremoniously swept aside by the new comers and their progress.  Tonto has skills and knowledge that is disregarded at first and then is not only accepted but desired as the two characters become partners.

Basically the movie becomes a classic cop/buddy movie set in the old west.

In this format you get to keep the Lone Ranger as the guy striving to be better than he is every day and Tonto gets to be a great teacher who passes on ancient American traditions to a new group of people.  Both get to represent the best of their cultures.

May we all get that chance.

Ramblings of: An unexpected visitor

I did have a lot of unexpected surprises while in the hospital.  The free wi-fi.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast followed by fried chicken with gravy for lunch followed by a cholesterol test.  (Really?)  But the biggest surprise was one I should’ve seen coming. I was visited by a local priest.  He was doing his rounds and seeking patients to comfort.  I grew up a Catholic and should’ve remembered this, but it’s been so long I forgot about it.

It’s also interesting to see a priest younger than me.  Instantly my mind raced back to the scene in Grand Torino where Clint Eastwood’s character is talking to the new priest of his church.  I was much friendlier and more polite than Eastwood was and let the man talk.

He started up with the usual roster of questions:

Was I Catholic?

Why did I leave?

Did I know I could come back?

It was interesting to watch him as he asked these questions.  He was genuinely concerned with my answers and wanted to reach out to a “lost spirit”.  He never called me that.  It was subconscious to him.  It showed in his manners.  He truly wanted to evangelize me back into the faith.  This wasn’t out of pride or power either.  It was concern for my soul.  It bothered him to see me not in the church.

I didn’t tell him that my relationship with the church was always tenuous at best.  I had been an altar boy and was friends with the Priests and Deacons.  In fact, one of my best friends is the son of the Deacon and we still talk every week.

The problem for me has always been the rules and regulations.  The idea that thinking of committing the sin is the same as actually committing the actual sin physically.  That women are not as equal as men in the eyes of the church and can’t become priests.  That priests can’t get married.

These have always been my personal questions and doubts about the whole concept.  Throw in a little experiment with the liberal Lutheran church.  (No pictures or statues?) Keeping up with the politics of the Roman Catholic Church, and it’s just not going to happen for me.

But here’s this man that truly believes.  He honestly and completely thinks this is good for everyone.  That inner peace, comfort, and wellbeing can be found through the church.  He wants people to see how good the church can be and how, though it, he can be as a representative of the faith.

It seemed to me the man needed a little comforting of his own.  To be recognized for the work he was doing and that it wasn’t all in vain.

So we prayed.  While he prayed for my peace and comfort during my illness; (He never did ask what I was in there for.) I prayed for his comfort and peace of mind in his search for enlightenment.

Faith is a unique thing.  Sometimes you can find it in others.  Sometimes you can find it in yourself.

Thoughts of: Learning to fly

While I was surfing the web from my hospital bed, my roommate was learning to fly.  No he wasn’t on any really good pharmaceuticals; he was head deep in text books, studying for the upcoming written test.

I found this interesting and encouraging in multiple ways.  Here’s a guy in his sixties or seventies who is not grumbling or fretting about being in the cardiac wing of the hospital due to heart problems, but is actively working on doing something he wants to do.

When most people are satisfied with what they’ve learned, this man is cramming in the hard arithmetic equations I’ve been trying to forget like a bad memory.  (When was the last time you voluntarily explained a quadratic equation or used the square root of the hypotenuse?)  This isn’t the usual, almost casual bucket list items I’ve seen and made myself.  This is a long term commitment.  I was very impressed.

I was also impressed with how well he dealt with the pokes and prods administered by the nurses.  I was grumbling, warning, and protesting the whole ordeal; he just said “Ok” to everything and went on reading while they did their thing.

This is also when I found out I am not the super optimistic/positive influence/happy type of patient I thought I’d be when I had to go to the hospital.  I’m the type who will want to wander the halls and be doing anything but stay in bed type.  Woe to the future nurses of any extended stay I must have.  I’m not barky or the type to yell.  Just impatient and ready to go.

My roommate, though, wow.  Just another day at the office for him.

I’d like to have that detached sense of calm.  To be able to focus on that one thing while the flies are buzzing all around you.  But that’s not me.  I can ignore one, maybe two flies buzzing around, but once a whole group start going, I start swatting and waving my arms like a bad version of the Macarena on speed.

Maybe his studies are the key to it all. Maybe by forcing his attention on all the math, rules and regulations, he kept himself distracted on his current situation while staying optimistic by actively working towards a future goal.

I don’t know.  All I know is that he was very calm and content while there.

I did talk to him for a brief moment.  I talked about how I built a model of a Piper Cherokee as a kid.

He talked about how the plane he’ll be flying is a Cessna.  He also told me how the instructors are so sneaky on your first day of solo flight.  They sit in the plane with you as you go through the check list, taxi with you as you head towards the runway.  Listen as you call the tower for take-off, and then jump out at the last minute while telling you that you’re on your own and that you’ve got traffic piling up behind you as you look at them in shock.

Thinking about it now, maybe that’s the biggest lesson we can learn.  Yes we might be in a place we don’t want to be for tests we don’t want to have, but for the most part we’ve all been in situations much scarier and difficult than this.  We pulled out fine then. Why fret now?

Thoughts of: Missing cameras, butterfly needles, competing with Mother Nature, and the utter necessity of the internet.

One of the worst things that can happen to a blogger happened to me recently.  I lost my camera.   I’ve looked all over for the thing, and I just can’t find it.  It’s been driving me crazy!  I even looked in the “guy” areas like the pantry and inside the refrigerator.  No luck at all.  I remember wanting to use it on my birthday, but decided against it and haven’t seen it since.  The only thing I can think of is that I took it to work for some pictures to be used in a how to book and I left it around a house or something.  I don’t know.  What I do know is now that I can’t find it, I have this irrational need to have it just in case.  In all honesty I could go on without it for some time and just use pictures from the internet for my blog, but it feels like a cheat.  I want to give you what I see without it coming from a third source.  Even though I could find better pictures on the internet, the picture I take puts you right next to me and, in my mind, helps me communicate exactly what I am describing at that moment.  I’d run out and buy one today, but I know the moment I do, I’ll find the missing one.

If that wasn’t enough a deterrent to blogging, I ended up staying overnight in the hospital last week.  I had a piercing headache and a minor tightening of my chest and before you can say “Onomonopia” the doctor has me wheeled over to the hospital for observation.  It almost didn’t happen.  See, my doctor knows I hate needles.  I loathe them.  I detest them.  I curse their very existence!  (Can you guess I don’t have any body piercings or tattoos?)  So in his wisdom, he decided not to tell me that they would be testing my blood every eight hours plus one at the beginning.  It took me a good ten minute of thinking it over before relenting to the observation.

On the one side, I was told that my symptoms were probably from too much caffeine in my system or just too much heat.  (It was brutally hot that day and an early rain was literally steaming off the road, making it hard for the body to cool itself.) This observation felt unnecessary to me under these circumstances.

On the other side, I’ve had too many family members suffer from pulmonary problems.  One’s still in recovery.  Others weren’t as lucky.  I knew my wife would be on me nonstop if I didn’t agree.  So I did.

It took a while to find me a bed.  For some reason the entire men’s wing was full to capacity.  The nurses said they hadn’t seen anything like it.  While waiting I was introduced to my new little friend, The Butterfly needle.  This thing is tiny!  I’m talking about the thickness of a hair.  I’ve had splinters bigger than this thing!  It’s wonderful.  To help you understand, when it comes to needles, it’s not the pricking or poking that’s the problem; it’s the buildup in my mind.  I obsess over and over about the upcoming bloodletting that I don’t turn that molehill into a mountain, I turn that bugger into K2!

“Ain’t no way you’re sticking that Pike into my arm!”

The butterfly takes all that away.  It is so small and thin that even when my senses are heightened to feel everything in a magnified way, its feels small.  If you have any, and I mean ANY reservations when it comes to needles and blood tests, ask for the butterfly needle.  It’s so much better.

I eventually got a room with a guy that was lucky enough to have the same observation orders.  Unfortunately for the both of us, his schedule was four hours ahead of mine.  That meant every four hours we were both interrupted by a nurse having to draw blood from either him or me.  It made for a wonderful night of non-rest.  Our favorite moment came when a nurse came in at 4A.M. to ask us if we had gone to the bathroom.  (We were both ambulatory and could walk to the bathroom if we needed it.  Why can’t they put that on the door?)

Luckily for me, I have a wife that truly cares and brought me my lap top.  Never again will I underestimate the power of Wi-Fi.  Instead of having to endure droning episodes of JWOW and Snooki or the mindless blabber of C-Span, I could surf the web.  I even listened to a podcast while in bed.  What I didn’t do was type.  For some reason lying in a hospital bed while getting poked and prodded takes the initiative out of you.  At least it did for me.  Passively reading was my preference that day, so that’s what I did.  In fact, I kinda did that all week.  I didn’t so it for deep reflection or soul-searching.  I’ve had those conversations with myself many times in the last few years.  No it was more of dropping everything and slowly de-pressurizing as so not to get the bends. I was tired of trying to get so much done and dealing with so much nonsense at work that doing nothing felt right.

It must’ve worked too.  My blood pressure dropped 30 points and my heart rate slowed 20 from their highest.  (I’m sure the medication influenced it a little bit too.)

In the end, all tests were negative. There was nothing wrong with me… er, physically.  I have a stress test scheduled for late August (the earliest available!) which is going to make for a fine blog post.  But in the meantime, I’m back with some interesting observations and some stories to tell.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions on where to look for that camera, let me know.  I could use the help.  (No it’s not in the toilet!)

Thoughts of: Finding the passion

In the last installment, I talked about how Four Wheeler magazine and I have gone down separate trails in subject matter. Today, I want to show you what I think the perfect off-road/adventure magazine would be.

Let’s call it “Asphalt and Two Track” for now.  The title lets you know immediately the range and scope of the topics, plus its familiar enough due to Road and Track magazine.

When it comes to subject approach, I’m going to steal very heavily from RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine.  Their main subject is travel; short distance, long distance, and international.  Everything other article featured supports the travel feature through vehicle tests, maintenance, aftermarket features, news, and editorials.  This is the exact same system I’d use for Asphalt and Two Track.

The non-spoken other main-topic would be how you can do most of these adventures in a box-stock vehicle.  Modifications are fun and exciting in their own right, but if you absorb years of the average off road magazine, you’re going to think you need lockers, winches, and big tires just to get down a graded gravel road.  This magazine would dispel that notion and show how many opportunities there are for people to explore in their family vehicle.

The locations would be a mix of the familiar and exotic.  From your semi-local logging roads to the cross continent expeditions; everything would be covered to not only give you dreams of going there, but give you places you could realistically get to on a weekend or day trip.

(I would also steal from both RoadRUNNER and 4 Wheel Drive magazine by including both GPS coordinates and maps for the featured area.)

Logging roads and off-roading would make up about 70% of the travel section. The other 30% would focus on adventures you can have on the road.  When I first read Australian 4WD magazine, I was blown away at how they would do a snippet on a small town near by the trail they were exploring.  RoadRUNNER features these places in a reverse ration in their magazine. It’s wonderful because adventure comes on the road as well as off it.  Seeing locations new to us, enjoying great eats, and finding trophies in the back country stores is also part of the adventure.

Dedicated off road magazines seem to miss this and while I have found some stories like this in Truck Trend magazine, I find their focus to be too scattered and random to truly enjoy.

You also have the added benefit of historical and cultural sights as well.  A story of the Lincoln Highway could be told as a comparison to when Alice Ramsey did it in 1909.

A trivia/entertainment piece could be done on Roslyn, Washington aka Cicily, Alaska.

To help out the reader decide how harsh the trip is, there would be a scoring scale created to judge from.  It would be a practical/common sense scale.  Instead of a five star rating or white diamond/ black diamond scale; it would feature vehicles.

A road trip would rate a Subaru Outback

A graded gravel road, Honda CRV

An ungraded gravel road, Ford Explorer

Muddy dirt two track/logging road, Chevy Silverado Z-71

Heavy deteriorated path with rocks and other obstructions, Jeep Wrangler

Just by seeing the silhouette of the vehicle described above, you would instantly know how hard the road or trail would be.

All other stories would support the travel stories in one way or another.

The news would feature new vehicles coming out, new accessories to make travel better or easier, new rules and regulations, environmental concerns, and things similar in nature.

Vehicle testing would not only show on road performance, but off road as well.  Plus real world costs for replacement/wear items such as wiper blades, brake pads, and filters.  (Maybe more, but I can’t think of them all right now)   Mileage would also be a big component here.  You can’t properly plan out your adventure if you don’t know how far you can go on average with a tank of gas.

Tire tests could be done as well to show you the benefits and trade-offs you have with each type of tire, giving you the information to find the best one suited to your adventure and driving style.

Travel trailers and slide in campers would also be tested here.  Some people don’t want to or won’t be able to sleep in a hotel or rented cabin.  Travel trailers and slide in campers need to have their strengths and weaknesses shone to let you know which is best for you.

Other accessories such as GPS, Emergency radios, safety equipment, first aid, and all other items that provide a means to the end would be featured as well.

Experiences at proper off-road driving schools would not only help out editors wring out the best of any vehicle tested, but also let you know if it’s worth the money spent or if you even need it.  (A feature of the Tread Lightly program is a no-brainer as well.)

There could even be a “build” article on how to outfit your vehicle for the style of adventures you choose.  (A simple insert of the author’s vehicle and its features could accompany every travel article as well.)

This is the magazine I’m looking for.  This is what I want to read about; exciting places, high adventure, and new experiences.  Articles and features that make me want to get out of the house and down the road.

What do you think?  Am I the only one who is looking for something like this, or would you like it as well?  What would you add or subtract?  What would you change? What would you like to see?  What would make you want to go out and have an adventure of your own?  Throw it down in the reply and let me know.

Thoughts of: Faded passion

My latest issue of Four Wheeler came in the mail two days ago. (Not the issue pictured) I was genuinely excited to see it.  It sits next to my computer as I type this with over 95% of it unread.

There’s just nothing in it that interests me.  There should be.  In fact, I should’ve devoured this magazine the moment I got it because the main subject and supporting subjects are for full size trucks.

As an owner of a Chevy Silverado Z-71, I should be all over it.  But there it sits as I eye it with dispassion.

Dispassion is the defining point.  For roughly the last 6 or more issues, I have had less and less passion for this magazine.

That wasn’t always the case.

I started reading Four Wheeler when I was in seventh grade.  Back then I didn’t buy the magazine or subscribe.  My friend’s older brother had a subscription and I would just read his.  It was a great supplement to my auto enthusiast reading.

I read Car and Driver, Auto Week, Automobile, and Road and Track every day at school instead of eating lunch.  It was quieter and more nutritional.  With these magazines, I learned about 0 to 60 times, Lateral Gs, stopping distances, slalom times, and new mechanical technologies.  If you wanted to go fast on the track or on a deserted stretch of winding road, these were the rags to read.

Four Wheeler introduced me to the other side of the coin.  Technical four wheel driving.  Here you didn’t drive fast to reach the ragged edge, here you had to drive slow.  There were similarities to the driving styles.  In both racing and four wheeling there is a “line” you need to follow for maximum control, get loose and wrecking your vehicle is the least of your worries.  Control is everything.  Concentrate and observe.  Great lessons for any driver.

To be Honest, I might not have gotten hooked into the world of four wheeling if it hadn’t been for Car and Driver’s article about the Rubicon Run and the TV show, Simon and Simon.

But as exciting as it was to read about the racing or rock crawling, the stories that always got my attention were the adventures.  From driving out west in a modified Four Taurus station wagon (aka the Billy Wagon) to running the Al-Can Highway with a can of dog food for emergencies to traveling to Brazil in a pickup, the stories of high adventure showed me a world that I could dive deep into.  All it would take is a capable vehicle and money for gas.  My own personal USS Enterprise to explore strange and unknown places.  And that’s just Toledo.  Who knows what else it out there.

I wanted to see everything and I soon realized my options would be greater if I owned a truck.  A four wheel drive truck.

That’s what hooked me.

Four Wheeler did a lot to feed my addiction.  At the time Four Wheeler always had a story about exploration in another country, sometimes a second travel story as well.  All the technical mechanics stories were there to create a stronger vehicle for the adventure ahead.  The adventure was the main focus.  At least in my mind.

These last six issues have had little or no stories of exploration.  No high adventure to open the mind and get the imagination flowing.  No “What if?” or “I could be there!”  It’s all about the sport now.   Heavily modified, purpose built vehicles, designed and built for one objective.  They might as well be indy cars. I still enjoy the occasional race, but for the most part, I just don’t get into it anymore.  About the only motor sport I pay any attention to anymore is American LeMans series.  In these races you have three separate classes of cars on the same track at the same time running at different speeds.  At least there’s some realism there.  I can relate to that.  It’s like going down the freeway and trying to pass that Geo Metro that’s blocking the road.  These extreme four wheel drive rigs just don’t work for me.  I don’t care that you’ve got 42 inch tires and can fit over that boulder in the middle of the trail.  A regular person would just go around it or put dirt in front and behind it so as to get over the thing without damaging their ride.

I want to see the beautiful vistas and glorious natural skylines at the end of the two track, not another bunch of pictures of tube buggies hung up on rocks or rigs stuck in a pit of mud.  Get to the good stuff!

I guess I shouldn’t be too hard.  John Cappa is working hard to make Four Wheeler the best he knows how.  He came into the business through of road racing and challenges like Four Wheeler’s Top Truck Challenge.  It’s what he knows and is used to.  He also replaced an Editor in Chief who boasted of his liking to fire people and penchant for hiding out during big off-roading events that brought big names and products from manufacturers out to play.

That guy didn’t have the passion.  He liked writing and had a decent concept, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Cappa’s got his heart in it.  It’s just that his focus of passion is not what mine is.  So three months from now I will let my subscription end and end this era in my life.  From 1983 to 2012 I’ve read or owned Four Wheeler magazine.  For the most part, I’ve enjoyed it.  It was a fun ride.  It’s just not what I’m looking for anymore.

Good Luck to you guys.  I hope it works out.  Until then, I’ll be scouting around for another magazine to grab my attention and feed my passion.

Daydreams of: Pride

Henry stood still with his gun drawn.  Three paces across from him stood five men, each frozen in mid stance as they pondered their next move.

“I wouldn’t try anything if I was you.”  Henry said in icy calm as he his knuckles turned pale against the grip of the gun.

One of the men boldly spoke back.  “You can’t get us all.”

“Maybe not.”  Henry said as he pointed his revolver at the young buck.  “But I’ll wager you’ll be first.”

“Shut up George!”  Replied another in the group, two men down.   “Bill!  What’re we gonna do?”

“We’re gonna wait.”  Bill said in a calm and steady voice.  “We’re all gonna wait.”

“You’re gonna drop your guns, is what you’re gonna do.”  Henry ordered as his eyes moved from man to man.

Bill looked at Henry and replied, “Mister.  That’s not going to happen.  The way I see it, you’re only fast enough to get one or two of us; after that the rest’ll plug you good and right.”

Henry silently lamented not listening to the rancher’s advice.

“Don’t stop at the way station.”  He admonished.  “It’s full of drovers and thieves.  They’ve got no roots and no convictions.  You’d be smart to stay away.”

Henry did put much stock in the rancher’s words.

“Yella talk from a Lilly.”  He had convinced himself.

He could handle it.  After all, he survived the war.  After all that blood and fire, a little thing like a bunch of lilies at saloon shouldn’t be nothin’.

Henry’s eyes locked onto Bill.

“The way I see it,” Henry said as he shifted his weight slightly forward.  “You owe me a lunch.  Now you and your boys can try to skin leather, but I know I got the draw.”

Bill looked into Henry’s eyes and smiled wickedly.

BOOM!

Henry fell sideways to the floor, his gun skipping across its planks.

Bill took three steps and looked down at Henry.

“Didn’t expect that now did ya?”  Bill sneered in delight as a man walked through the back doorway, smoke issuing from the barrel of his shotgun.

“See, while you had the drop on us, we had the drop on you.”

Henry gasped desperately as Bill stepped back from the blood flowing and pooling on the floor.

Picking up Henry’s gun, Bill looked at his gang.

“Drink up boys!”  He said with a triumphant smile.  “The drinks are on him!”

The gang roared in laughter as Henry gasped his last.