An Authentic Han Solo Costume: The miracle of Amazon.com amid changing industries–and people

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Everyone knows I’m a huge Star Wars fan—which I view differently from the geeky other types of entertainment exhibitions of public support.  When I see the name Star Wars and participate in its products in whatever form, it evokes in me an optimism that is very specific to it that I am very fond of.  That’s why my favorite character within Star Wars is Han Solo, because he is the most optimistic character perhaps ever created for film.  Nothing is impossible for Han Solo—he’ll try anything under any circumstances because his personality is such that he figures his confidence and sheer will can get him through anything.  He is the Donald Trump of science fiction and I’ve felt that way about that character for more than forty years now.  On more than a few occasions I’ve dressed up as Han Solo for Halloween events, or other science fiction endeavors, conventions, watch parties, literary events at book stores—just various festive gatherings that celebrate costuming and character reverence—but I’ve never had any kind of official Han Solo clothing. I would just piece together whatever I could find that sort of looked like the popular smuggler from the Star Wars series and go from there. But my five-year old grandson is about to have a big birthday party marking that invisible line of being a toddler to a genuine little boy fully aware of the world around him with the memories that now matter—and my daughters are fashioning it to Star Wars.  As I’ve reported before also, these parties my kids do for their kids are not just little events—they go all out in creating a very mythic experience that is almost a theme park occurrence and due to their passion for Star Wars they are going all out.  That meant that of course I had to dress up as Han Solo—but this time I wanted to do it for real—as real as possible because of the effort my kids were putting into this party and the eventual impact it would have on the youth in my family attending this thing.  So I turned to Amazon.com to see what was out there and was stunned by a world I discovered.

My mom made me a little vest like Han Solo’s when I was in the fifth grade and I sort of kept it all these years even though it was way too small for me.  But even a few years ago if you wanted something that looked like a Star Wars character and bought a costume from a place like Party City it always came out looking far from authentic.  If you wanted something that looked like the clothing in the movie you had to make it.  Back when my kids were little we went to a Star Wars Celebration in Indianapolis and my wife made Jedi robes for my girls and their friends so they could dress up at that convention which occurred right before the movie Revenge of the SIth.  The internet at that time had some support—you could get directions from people who built their own costumes but there weren’t suppliers carrying things like that on the shelf.  Even though Star Wars was popular there just wasn’t any money in it for costumers to make costumes of all those characters in the movies  for a public of all shapes and sizes.  The scope of that work was unrealistic. For Han Solo specifically his outfit looks pretty simple yet is really quite complex.  For instance, his vest from A New Hope has a series of very complicated pockets positioned just right—and there is nothing like that off the rack at Wal-Mart or Kholes.  Han Solo’s pants don’t have pockets and have a very specific pin stripe down the side of them which disappears into knee-high boots that are meant to put the swash in the buckle for the very dashing character. The shirt under the vest isn’t just a white button-up but has a very unique collar and v-nick style that has to fit just right through the shoulders to give the correct effect.  Then there is the gun belt which is a thing all its own.  So I went looking for these things and I started with the Star Wars Costume exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center—which has been running all summer and will end around the beginning of October before moving on to the next city.  It’s a good exhibit, most of which I’ve seen before at the Smithsonian, but for my quest it served its purpose.  I was able to get right up to the Han Solo costume and look at things up close so that I could duplicate it authentically.  If I couldn’t find the items online, my wife was willing to build them from scratch so we went and took lots of pictures.

To my shook as I started looking now, in 2017 for these very specific Han Solo costume pieces for this epic party my kids were having I discovered that I was able to buy everything at Amazon.com relatively inexpensively.  For instance the great Han Solo vest that I figured was the most important part of the costume was just under forty dollars from an outfit in China.  I skeptically ordered it expecting it to arrive in a very flawed condition.  I expected something that looked like a typical Party City costume that smelled like plastic and rubber.  But what came to my front door was an exact replica of the Han Solo vest from A New Hope made out of material that was like that of tactical gear for a SWAT team.   It was a very good garment that was legitimate and it fit well the moment I put it on.  I was stunned by the quality of it.  I then proceeded to order the official shirt, the pants, the boots and the gun belt which as of this writing hasn’t yet arrived, but everything else has and again I was stunned by the authenticity of each item.

At different points in my life I had looked for these things and nobody carried them—as I said, everything had to be made by hand.  What’s unique about now from then—and by then I mean like six months ago—is that due to all the COSPLAY that goes on at these Comic Con conventions and now that Disney World is building these amusement parks with Star Wars lands within them there is this big COSPLAY movement that has emerged—where people dress up as characters from their favorite movies to delve into the mythology of these various sci-fi events—and out of nowhere there are all these suppliers who are making these costumes to meet the growing demand.  It’s a whole industry of itself that has virtually arrived out of nowhere.  I am aware of some of it because I find Comic Cons interesting as well as Gen Cons and other conventions.  I also noticed that the plans for the new Star Wars resort coming to Disney World is seeking to tap into this emerging market with a Fantasy Island style of Star Wars experience where they encourage people to show up dressed for the part.   Obviously Disney knew all about this culture and were building their business plans around it.  I only discovered it because of my grandson’s birthday party—but this was big business!

As I had ordered everything from my home computer and each item arrived one by one to my doorstep without having to go anywhere to search for it I became more and more impressed.  Even more shocking was that everything fit nicely, I didn’t have to send anything back.  Just by reading some of the reviews I was able to size myself accordingly with no trouble at all.  I figured that the risk was low because if the stuff showed up and was junky I figured my five-year old grandson would forgive me.  He’d appreciate the effort and wouldn’t get hung up on the details—even though he is a very smart little kid.  He surprises me what he notices.  He’s already playing the video game Battlefront very well which is about two years before I thought he would.  He plays online against other people who are very good—and he’s effective.  He knows all the different types of weapons that can be used, how to outfit each character and how to manage the Star Cards which give unique abilities to tactical engagements.  So if something wasn’t right, he’d notice. But after getting the parts of my Han Solo costume together it was obvious that I had nothing to worry about.  As far as this party was concerned, except for my hairline, the outfit looks just like it would if it was on the actual movie set.  That’s pretty stunning for something that was so easily ordered on Amazon.com.

This is all just another example of how imagination is fueling an entirely new industry and due to the excessive and efficient reach of Amazon.com they were able to connect me to suppliers around the world where I could get a very specific items from a forty-year old movie to my doorstep within two weeks.  And the quality wasn’t junky but meant to impress even under the scrutiny of the most ardent film geek.   In some cases my outfit is better than the movie original on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center.  Those costumes were meant for just a few months of filming, these for purchase were meant to last much longer and under the judgment of live audiences.  Needless to say, which I have before, we are seeing something new and hopeful from these modern movie enthusiasts which starts with a mythology in the movie theater and extends into real life—what Disney is doing down at their theme parks is tapping into the public need to play out their fantasies and is an expansion of imagination that is very specific to our species as human beings.  The need to personify a fantasy experience has deep psychological roots that go far beyond primal necessity.   I think the end result is a very positive one that is headed toward an unknown climax.  I know I love to see the imaginations of so many people at work to make something like all this possible—but it surprised even me at the extent of it all. And the entity most responsible for the success of this new industry was Amazon.com.  They were the middle ground players that connected need with supply and allowed both to get what they wanted at the best price and quality.  If they can do that with a simple costume from Star Wars, just think what they can do with real necessities.  We are living in a whole new world.

Rich Hoffman

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Hollywood Down 8% in 2017: Trading politics for profit to destroy an industry

This is far more important than most people think—the movie box office for July of 2017 was down 8% from the same period a year ago.  Additionally Disney has lost around 4 million subscribers to its Disney Channels over the past three years as kids turn to other forms of entertainment.  More and more homes are cutting their cable service as it’s just too expensive for what people get,  and theater owners are struggling to survive with Hollywood giving them very little to work with to justify the big investment that a movie ticket costs these days.  That same home theater market is keeping people home more rather than go to the theater to see movies that could otherwise just be seen on Netflix.  If you couple all that with the Donald Trump versus the media battle—which will hurt traditional media extensively, the entertainment industry is in big trouble—which I have been saying for a long time.  All the stocks are down for the theater owners—which I feel sorry for.  The distributors have let them down by pushing a product that was just too liberal for mainstream American audiences and now they’ve all been hung out to dry.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-hollywoods-franchise-crisis-worsens-july-fourth-1018493

http://www.tubefilter.com/2017/07/05/disney-channel-freeform-ratings-falling/

For about 20 years I bounced around with tentative meetings within Hollywood.  For me it was more than a treasure hunt, I really wanted to make movies and to contribute to the library of wonderful movies that I had grown up with.  The business end was something I didn’t have much patience for since most of the people running the industry were radically more liberal than I was.  So I’d get a project floating around out there but it would go cold.  The money guys were also liberal so the project proposals I suggested were either heavily scrutinized with extensive re-writes to soften them up, or they just weren’t getting off the ground.  In a few cases I was offered positions in the industry, but my wife didn’t want to move to California—and without living in such a way that you could network in that town, it was pretty much impossible to get any project off the ground.  I went to several film festivals, won a few screenwriting awards and ended up doing a few bull whip stunts for legitimate studios but the last time I flew back from Hollywood in 2008 I knew that the industry was in trouble from a business perspective.   They weren’t going to make it which made me sad, because I liked traditional Hollywood—I always liked Howard Hughes, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Albert Hitchcock, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.  These new filmmakers in Hollywood were too political and I was from a flyover state so things just weren’t going to work out.  After that last trip I put my focus into other business opportunities and waited for the inevitable which is now upon us.

Movies cost too much to make, the labor unions which represent all the industry people has forced them all to think too collectively to stay in touch with the American people.  Reading with great interest how the Han Solo movie fell apart at Lucasfilm it’s obvious that the new generation is just too soft and manipulated by their director’s guilds—into liberal politics which the movie going audiences can’t stand.   Even though I warned of all this years ago, and have written extensively about it since, it still hurts to see an entire industry collapsing on itself.  The Hollywood product is now on life support with only a few big Disney releases carrying most of the industry.  Warner Bros. has done well with Wonder Woman, and Marvel had their usual hits with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.   Small films like Baby Driver did respectable business, but big films like Pirates of the Caribbean 5 were down a quarter from the previous installment worldwide and that isn’t good news.   Critics have been hard on these new movies as they have an extreme political slant to most reviews and once the Rotten Tomatoes scores hit online people are so turned off they just don’t go see these films and that cycle is worsening.

Hollywood is about more than just the movies themselves—it’s about an entire industry from print media like Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, to the television shows Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight.   Critics for the big newspapers have national audiences in some cases and they have abused their relationships and let that stardom go to their heads giving themselves the power to sink or swim a picture—so essentially they have cut off their own noses to spite their faces.  I remember a very specific day in Glendale, California where several day time television programs were set up on the same street to shoot exteriors and I was having lunch with some people who worked the trade publications who were full of themselves way too dangerously.  I tried to make them aware of the fragile eco system that was on full display and they had the kind of attitude that the gravy train was going to go on forever.  Well, within two years every one of those people was out of a job and their publications had folded.   They should have listened, but of course they didn’t.  Most of those big name trade publications won’t be around much longer because nobody really cares what they have to say. The media stars they talk about are today far more political than they used to be and they have aligned themselves against Trump who is set to be a very popular and successful president, and now there just aren’t enough fans of their material to carry them into the next decade.

There are going to be a lot of bankruptcies—and even the Disney Company will feel the squeeze.  While I continue to be very impressed with what Disney is doing at their parks and with the Star Wars movies as one giant mythology spanning many platforms—computer games, etc—they still rely too much on theater owners to distribute their core products and those theater owners need more than just Disney to stay afloat.   They need every weekend to have people wanting to go to the theaters to buy over-priced popcorn and soda to watch a movie they don’t want to wait for release on the home market where likely the televisions they have at home is far better than what is offered at the theater.  I will have to add that when my wife and I went to see The Book of Henry that the Regal Cinemas we went to had adjusted their prices down for popcorn and pop to a very reasonable level.  The theater owners out there are doing their jobs and adjusting to the marketplace, but Hollywood hasn’t.  They keep making the same crap and trying to repackage it instead of turning loose people with great ideas to constantly keep material fresh.  I know I wasn’t the only one trying to get new ideas to production companies—it was mainly a cultural problem.   Studio execs were too interested in getting laid at the multiple parties around town by telling chicks that they were for this liberal cause or that—so they were making decisions at the executive level in producing products that American audiences did not want to see.   Once they got their blow job they had already committed their studio to ten films for production the next year which nobody would want to see because of their overly liberalized political overtones.   Sure the chick who was giving blow jobs at the party liked the Matt Damon movie about fracking—but nobody in America wanted to see it and the budget was blown.

So the industry is toast—it won’t recover in its present form.  Of course there will be investment opportunities in new styles of media, but the Hollywood game is over.  The industry just hasn’t come to terms with it yet.  There are a few $1 billion dollar earners yet to be released in 2017 but it won’t be enough.  By the end of the year the gains will be so far down that they won’t even be worth discussing.   And life outside of Hollywood will go on.   All I can say to those people who were so haughty 10 years ago is that I sincerely tried to tell you this would happen, but you didn’t listen.  I wish you had.  So now it’s time to pay—and it will be painful.  But you people did it to yourselves.   America will be great again and Hollywood has removed itself from being a part of it—and that’s a damn shame.

Rich Hoffman

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‘Baby Driver’: Reflections where facts are more dramatic than fiction

Even through the new film Baby Driver isn’t quite out yet I think it’s safe to say that my own car chase story Tail of the Dragon is still the most intense action packed of its kind ever put to paper by a human mind to date.  But I’ll have to say, when I wrote that story, I was thinking about movies done in the style of this soon to be Edger Wright classic.  There is room in our culture for a lot more of these types of stories and this one has hit me hard with anticipation for many personal reasons. First of all, since I first heard the song “Radar Love” by the Dutch Band Golden Earring in 1973 I have wanted to see it used as a backdrop for a car chase of some kind and it looks like Edger Wright has done it.  Second of all, by the previews shown so far, the main character of Baby played by Ansel Elgort looks remarkably biographical to my real life between my 17th and 19th years of life.  After all it was those experiences which provoked me to write Tail of the Dragon to begin with—to get all that out on paper.  So it makes me very happy to see movies like Baby Driver getting made and that several of the Fast and Furious movies have continued to push great box office numbers in theaters.  I hope the same for this one—I am very excited for it.

I’ve alluded to it before but after watching these trailers it may be time to get a little more specific because the Baby character just in these previews speaks to me with quite a bit of reflection.  I understand his dilemma.  It was only a month or so ago where a political enemy of mine had looked me up on one of those online searches trying to get dirt on me, and they were stunned at what came back to them.  It showed over 17 hostile interactions with law enforcement and this person sent me that information hoping to get some leverage on me because I’m now living the life of a respectable citizen and they thought I wanted to hide that past.  What they didn’t know is that I consider my actions back then—at that critical juncture between youth and adulthood–to be very respectable—even though it might have been on the wrong side of the law. All I ever wanted was freedom—real freedom—and I wanted to be a millionaire quickly and just step over the nonsense of fighting it out the way I saw was making other people miserable.  I did live heavily in the fast lane and I was willing to use those skills to acquire all the money I could to launch a family and when I found the right girl for me—those people didn’t want to let me out of that lifestyle—and many conflicts ensued.

If I were ever have been said to have an addiction it was probably speed, the kind you get from driving a car extremely fast.  Like I said, as a youth when I first heard the song “Radar Love,” I was thinking of it playing to excessive speed in very fast cars.  The very first person I remember admiring as a young man was Evel Knievel so even at ages 5, 6, and 7 moving fast and recklessly was pretty much all I thought about—so when I was finally able to turn 16 and buy my own car I was ready and I quickly made a reputation for myself. My very first traffic ticket for excessive speed was on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving in 1984 where I was in a race with a Trans Am that clearly out powered my car at the time.  So the only way to win was to have more nerve than he did—so I flew through a swarm of cops parked at the Tri-County Mall in Cincinnati on the wrong side of the road at well over a 100 MPH—against the traffic.  When the police got the radar gun on me they caught my speed at 85 MPH in a 35 zone.  They would have taken me to jail for reckless operation but one call to the Sharonville police station told them to just issue me the ticket.  I was under the protection of the senior judge in that district and literally had a get out of jail free pass given to me by him—because I did work on the side for him which was related to a mob outfit in Chicago—and they wanted me free to do it.

The way that Kevin Spacey’s character is portrayed in Baby Driver reminds me precisely of one of my first “bosses.”  This guy ran a car dealership that I worked for and from that I had to do more than just sell new and used cars.  I did repo work and they liked me because I had no reservations about danger—as people obviously didn’t like having their cars taken back when they failed to make payments. I was always very eager to sneak up to someone’s house and take their car without being shot, and people did shoot at me while doing this kind of thing.  It was very exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  These days repo guys aren’t allowed to do some of the things we did to get our cars back so for me it was a unique opportunity to live very dangerously and get away with it legally—and make great money doing it.  But then again, the car dealership was a front at the time for cocaine dealing—as a way to launder the money and all these repo jobs were ways that this Kevin Spacey style “boss” could check to make sure I wouldn’t be a rat—because they needed a driver to help deliver regionally.

I had my limits of course.  I didn’t mind the danger or the drama of court appearances and the continuous threat of jail—but I did not like drugs.  So when the dealership sent me with another senior car salesman down to Over-the-Rhine to deliver cocaine to a distributer operating across from Union Terminal it was in my precious car which had survived many high-speed encounters and for which I was particularly attached to.  Of course they didn’t tell me what we were doing—they let me believe that the whole operation was going to be a unique repo job, so I didn’t ask what was in the suitcase in my back seat. But I did think it was strange that we didn’t take a company car on this effort—as we typically did.  This was my car and the salesman smoked—and because we were not in a company car I had a little sign on my dashboard telling passengers that there was no smoking allowed. In fact, people who knew me also knew my very strict policy against drug use. So this forty something drug dealer who was very rich I might add, was very upset with  my rules and promised that I’d have a hard time when we got back to the office.  So things weren’t getting off to a good start. When we arrived to the destination he left the suitcase in my back seat and told me he’d be right back as he went to the door of the townhouse where the target lived. While he was in there I took a peek at what was in the suitcase and I saw that it was cocaine.

Over the years up to that point I had a reputation of not flinching at anything.  I knew some of these people I was working with were serious criminals and some were very powerful politicians and sports stars.  I was with them as a body-guard at times even though I was very young, and as an assurance that no matter what happened I was their ticket out of it.  They had never asked me to directly commit a crime—but rather used me as a lifeline back to freedom—and I was very dependable.  But, I had just met my future wife and I was thinking of living a normal life that we could build a family with—and once you’ve been invited to those types of circles—they don’t want you out flapping your mouth about every little thing you’ve seen.  They’d prefer you to be dead or with them—there really isn’t any middle ground.  So with drugs in my backseat I left that guy down there and headed back to the sales office where the mission started and reported back to my Kevin Spacey looking boss that his partner at the dealership was selling drugs.  He looked at me exasperated.  “You left him there?”  Of course I had to tell him yes and there was about a half hour of excessive panic because this Over-the-Rhine distributer had a ruthless reputation and now he had to call in for help while he was in hostile territory.  I was commanded to go back and get him for which I refused.  They had to send someone else.

Maybe I’ll write about the details sometime about what happened next but needless to say the Baby Driver plot reminds me of the two weeks that followed. I can really sympathize with the Baby character especially at that time in my life.  I wanted to be married to this wonderful new girl and I wanted away from those types of people—and it wasn’t easy.  A lot of people got into a lot of trouble and I had to drive very fast a lot to stay out of both jail and this side of the dirt—because these people did play for keeps. It seemed like a long time then, because at only 19 years of age, time moves more slowly, but in reality it was all over in just a few months.  Things worked out for me the way I needed them to.  It was a tough adjustment to live without the level of money I was used to.  Just out of high school I made twice as much money as my dad did at the prime of his career, but my country club wife assured me that she wanted to do everything clean and that holds true to this very day.  It took a while, but eventually I was able to climb out of that hole in my lifestyle—and it was all worth it—especially being able to live and tell about it.

It doesn’t happen often but just watching the previews for this new Baby Driver movie set to “Radar Love” took my mind instantly to this very turbulent time and I won’t even pretend that it was all bad. I loved living like that. It was fun to live beyond the rules and to be so good at things that people would literally do anything to make it so you could keep doing it.  For the first seven years of my marriage I didn’t have a driver’s license because once I stepped away from that life the courts crashed down on me and it wasn’t easy—the penalties were severe.  That past kept clawing away at me trying to either pull me back in, or destroy me in the process—it took about an entire decade to finally outpace that lifestyle I had before my marriage.  People had to die off and the fast life caught up to many of them who did manage to live for the next decade.  They either destroyed themselves or they ended up in jail.  There wasn’t really any middle ground.

Needless to say, I feel a connection to Baby Driver and I really hope it does good business during its run.  Speaking from experience I think what’s worse than a life of crime is a life not lived.  The spontaneity of life is a magical thing and you often don’t really see it until you are pushed well beyond your comfort levels.  And even though he is villainous in this movie Kevy Spacey’s character is right—people do love a good heist—they do need something to talk about over their “lattés” Thinking of “Radar Love” and the way the scenes played out for the preview of Baby Driver, I feel quite a lot of satisfaction knowing that I gave plenty of stories that have been talked about over a great many lattés.  And in the great theater of living, that’s not a bad thing.  I can’t wait to see Baby Driver.

Rich Hoffman

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The Call to Adventure: A 52 Week Project which photographs authenticiy

It was strange recently getting yet another notification from the Ohio courts of Butler County that I’ve been selected for jury duty because my name ends up in the hat so often due to my voting patterns.  I noticed while filling out the form which included my wife and kids that none of them have what you might call—“traditional” jobs.  My wife is a happy housewife, my oldest daughter a professional photographer who is very highly sought after and my youngest is an illustrator.  As I write this she, (my youngest) is doing a commission piece on the Batman villain The Joker shown below.  But none of the ladies in my family have a “traditional” job where they go to work, punch in and sell away their day for cash.  I know that’s the typical way that we measure economic success, but I’ve always been a big supporter of that type of freedom—especially for women because they tend to invest more into children, households and the emotional nurturing of a family as a whole.  When people are free of that primary concern of having to sell away their time for money, it allows them to invest in less tangible aspects of family building, so it makes me proud to see that among the women closest to me, they are all on that type of path.  They don’t have a “boss” out there they must yield to, and that is something I think is very important to family development, because it makes them the authority figures of their own lives which is why that question is asked on a jury selection form.  Attorneys obviously want to know that the people in their pool are “normal” people miserable like everyone else—so the way I answered that question likely will knock me out of the selection process.

My photographer daughter has really impressed me; she is taking her business to a new level as seen in these included videos.  She’s doing something called the 52 Weeks Project where each week she is picking a subject to photograph then she shows how she comes up with the shots and how the editing process goes on arriving at the final product.  She’s a full-time mom, but on both of these efforts she was up at dawn before her little boy woke up wanting breakfast and conducted these pictures for her project squeezing in a lot of creativity into an already packed day.  She’s been busy with booked appearances for several weeks now and coming up shortly after this publication she has a photo shoot in Chicago.  So what you see here is a very developed photographer who is expecting herself to be one of the great ones.  What she does is out of pure passion which I liken back to having the ability to be free of having a “boss” in her life who governs her away from home while on a time clock. That freedom has allowed her to expand her personal life in ways that I think are quite extraordinary—and necessary to achieve the level of art that she is shooting for.

Even her subjects are unique in the scheme of the photographic community.  Her first entry into the 52 weeks project was “A Call to Adventure” which I thought she managed to squeeze a lot out of while working in a very limited area within Cincinnati.   For those who don’t understand why a “Call to Adventure” is important it’s a classic motif most appropriately defined by Joseph Campbell in the telling of mythologies.  Usually after the first act of a movie or the introductory phase of a novel the main character is faced with a jumping off point from the static patterns of their normal life and into the promise of adventure provoked by some dynamic force. For some people the “Call to Adventure” might be as simple as a stranger approaching you from the back of a cab at a stop light while you’re walking to work in New York and asks you to help them get to the airport.  You must then decide to help or not because if you do, the static patterns of your day will be disrupted and that could have unpleasant consequences.  Then for others it might be an opportunity to fly to Cambodia to do sex traffic rescue work in some steamy jungle nightmare, but while there you make a new archaeological discovery that changes the world perspective on our knowledge of history.  The “Call to Adventure” is often how you can dramatically enrich your life for the better with vast experience, but to do so you must step away from your static patterns and allow dynamic forces into your life.

For instance, a friend of mine who worked on the Trump campaign in 2016 called me on a very busy day last week and asked me if I could appear on CNN the next day.  I had scheduled a lot of events and I really didn’t have the time.  After all I had an oversea meeting planned at the very same moment I was supposed to be on with Anderson Cooper.  So did I answer the call and go on CNN which was likely just going to do a hit piece.  As it turned out the CNN people were very gracious and were not the kind of gotcha people who Rush Limbaugh surmised when he talked about the event on his show.  I did the CNN segment along with some other peers and it got people talking and was fun to do.  I still managed to get all my work done—although it was different from my usual day and I could point to many times in my life where answering the “Call to Adventure” directly led to some very unusual experiences which ultimately enhanced my life.

I have learned over time to never get too rigid about things.  The “Call of Adventure” is something I consider so important that I often go out of my way to find it with a very laissez-faire approach to living and personal management.  I may start the day with all kinds of planned activities but by the end of it, I end up doing things I never thought I would at the start and that comes from saying yes to the “Call of Adventure.”  So it made me particularly proud to see my photographer daughter out there capturing not only dramatic photos but articulating that difficult concept artistically.  She, standing at the entrance of a forest goes back to some of the great Arthurian legends of the Middle Ages where the knights would all enter the forest of their various adventures at different points basically to establish that no two paths of adventure were the same for other people.  People must pick their own paths in life to be living truly authentic lives so here was my kid showing this rather difficult concept to explain with a simple photograph.  But as you can see from the editing process, it’s not so simple.IMG_4644

This brings me back to the importance of my girls not being encumbered with a traditional job—especially while raising their children.  If they put their children in daycare, there would be many fewer opportunities for the kids to experience the wonder of a life lived authentically, because the static schedules of daily living prohibit it—and true intellectual learning is often crippled in children as a result.  But for a mother who is there ready to answer that “Call to Adventure” at the slightest provocation a simple trip to the grocery store on a sunny summer in July might lead to a lifetime of discoveries that stay with young people forever because if the schedule of acquiring food is relaxed there may be opportunities for adventure that come up along the way—someone might need help changing a flat tire or a snake may be caught under a car in the grocery store parking lot and need help getting over to the cool grass before somebody runs it over.  You just never know—but there is tremendous value in following the “Call to Adventure” and it makes me feel very good to see that my daughter has matured to a point where she can understand it well enough to photograph.  That takes talent!

Rich Hoffman

Sign up for Second Call Defense here:  http://www.secondcalldefense.org/?affiliate=20707  Use my name to get added benefits.

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Movie Review of ‘Snowden”: Make the kid a deal and put him to work

I have often thought of Oliver Stone as a brilliant screenwriter, climaxing with the movie Scarface starring Al Pacino.  As a director, I liked JFK and Natural Born Killers—which I thought were very ambitious.  I also liked his movie The Doors for the style of his approach to the subject.  But too often, Stone fizzles out in the second act and his movies never live up to the hype.  Art and activism are tricky bedfellows and most of the time the result just isn’t very good—so when he brought out Snowden just before the 2016 election as an obvious appeal to get a pardon for Edward Snowden stuck in Moscow with his longtime girlfriend unable to return back to the United States due to charges of treason and espionage—I wasn’t all that excited to see it.  However, due to the recent Wikileaks dump from the CIA called Vault 7 I thought it was time to at least see what all the fuss was about and learn the back story of Snowden.  Disappointingly, the last act was flat, as most Oliver Stone movies have been for years where the big payoff sort of sputtered out the moment that Snowden learned that you could turn on a laptop and watch women undressing in their bedrooms.  After that the story was really about a young twenty something who had his sensibilities hurt and had lost his nerve.  A story that was meant to show Snowden as a hero instead showed to me a 29-year-old genius who didn’t know how to handle a veiled threat from the upper levels of the CIA.

When Snowden’s bosses at the CIA let the young contractor know that they had been watching him in his private time he showed a naiveté that couldn’t match his big brain and the two things crashed into each other. Snowden had been given too much access to too much at too early of an age.  That scene based on real life was essentially the moment from the John Grisham novel—The Firm where a bright young prospect is nurtured along by older and wiser mentors only to have them reveal that they have control over every aspect of his life.  It’s essentially a hazing ritual that goes on in just about every place on earth that deals with the flow of money—where gatekeepers want to let someone who might be able to knock them out of a job in a few years, know that they are in control until they decide to hand over the reins.  According to Stone’s movie on Snowden—the kid got cold feet and let his mind erode away his logic.  No, I don’t like that the CIA and FBI are spying on everything we do as Americans, but there is a better way to make the case than what Snowden did out of a neurotic grasp on reality.

One thing that did surprise me was how determined Snowden was to become a special forces trooper, and once he broke his legs joined the CIA. During his entry interview, he was asked what his influences were—artistically, and he stated pretty much verbatim what I would have said, Joseph Campbell, Star Wars, Ayn Rand and Thoreau.  I also didn’t know that Snowden was a pretty straight-laced conservative who didn’t drink or smoke. After the first act I was pretty excited about Edward Snowden—he seemed to me to be a freedom fighter of a reasonable caliber.

But after watching him with his liberal girlfriend who was a sweet girl, but dreadfully naive—then with his co-workers, I realized who the guy was—and he was no hero. He is an excessively smart guy who essentially flew too close to the sun, and his wings melted. Down to earth he fell as The Guardian newspaper from England broke the story which they knew would embarrass the United States who was obviously struggling with a rogue government that had become the Deep State.  There are a lot of parasites out there in the media who want with every fiber of their essence to see any American do anything to embarrass their country even if its justified.  Because they are jealous of America and its reach into and around the world.

Now that the act is done however, there are lessons of plenty to go around. Our intelligence people in the federal government have assumed that everyone wanted to make that deal for security which I illustrated recently in an article about James Comey—and I’m not one of those people.  I don’t need some pinhead in the CIA to protect me from a terrorist.  If I see one, I’ll take care of it—better and cleaner than those idiots.  I practically begged some terrorist in Paris recently to attack me—I was wearing my cowboy hat around a radical poverty-stricken Muslim neighborhood and there were no takers.  These terrorists aren’t nearly as tough as the people in the CIA want to make them out to appear.  The CIA dramatizes everything so that they can get funding and more power—just like everyone else.  And when Snowden was confronted with an invasion of his privacy at the start of the third act of the Stone movie—he should have turned the tables on his bosses.  That would have been the manly thing to do—I would have gathered up pictures of those CIA heads in every compromising position and published them for all to see with even the hint of a threat—instead of overreacting and doing the whole—“I’ll show you” thing and reveal every state secret.  Needless to say, I couldn’t relate to how Snowden handled things in the second part of the film—he went from being very much in control and determined, to being a beaten young man under the emotional manipulation of a liberal girlfriend.   As I said about her, she was sweet and would have been a good match for someone with a fraction of Snowden’s ambitions, and ultimately she likely changed him to the point that he didn’t have the sensibility to work for the CIA anymore seeing people blown up on deserted streets in Syria as designated terrorist cells complete with collateral damage.

The undercurrent of the Snowden film which could have been good—but wasn’t—was that America had no right meddling in other country’s affairs—which of course we do. When other countries don’t solve their own problems, their immigrants come knocking on our doorsteps—so to protect our own nation—we have to go into nations that still entertain socialism, communism, and extreme religions and do what we can to diffuse bad guys planning to harm Americans domestically—and if left alone to their own devices will steal planes and run them into buildings, or bomb us in our many public gatherings as a punishment for embracing capitalism.  Snowden as a conservative changed during the film into something of a millennial crybaby and Stone seized on that aspect of the young man rather than that earlier much more conservative person.  Snowden’s character arch went from something likable to something rather pathetic and I blame the CIA for being second-handers and latching onto the kid so fast because they were essentially out of ideas themselves.

I am all for dismantling the Deep State which was revealed by Snowden and most recently caught manipulating the Presidency of Donald Trump but I’m not willing to throw the baby out with the bath water. If I were Trump I’d make Snowden a deal, I’d prosecute him for sure under Jeff Sessions and make him go through the embarrassment of public scrutiny.  But I’d put him into community service as an intelligence operative for a fraction of the cost of what he’s worth as a brilliant mind for 30 years.  A little freedom cheaply paid is better than rotting in prison, and so long as he’s in Russia, or other places—he’s helping other bad guys out there beef up their personal security and he’s not working on behalf of the United States. With a mind like Snowden—he deserves a second chance not for his benefit, but for the benefit of our country.   But his work would have to be more community service at a low wage instead of being thrown in jail only to be useless.  It’s good to keep enemies close, and Snowden should be in the United States doing work toward the next generation of threats instead of letting people like Oliver Stone make movies like Snowden to support in an indirect way George Soros’ open border network.  Yes, it’s a complicated problem but the solution is very easy.  Make a deal with the kid and put him to work limiting his freedom for decades—and we’ll all be better off.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Sign up for Second Call Defense here:  http://www.secondcalldefense.org/?affiliate=20707  Use my name to get added benefits.

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‘The Crystal Skull of Canterbury’: A new project born from a lot of passion

I have a new book in development called The Crystal Skull of Canterbury and am looking for a good team for its publication.  One thing I have learned after doing this a few times before is that even the best written pieces of work need a good team to get it to readers.  This book is a little different for me, I came up with the idea during a recent visit to the locations featured in the novel—it’s more of a Bridges of Madison County story except more contemporary and featuring an English countryside because honestly they like to read in that country so why not set the story there—for the target demographic.  I’m a business guy, so I think in those types of terms as a first consideration.  This is just a starting point and the story is as follows:

A NASA contractor whose specialty is in preparing mankind for the long-preserved evidence that will be discovered on Mars ahead of a 2030 mission that life much longer than earth’s existed on the Red Planet, is challenged by a former curator of the British Museum to defend claims made by the contractor regarding the authenticity of the popular Crystal Skull exhibit which attracts so many visitors each year. Dorrington Weingarten sees the opportunity as positive publicity for the museum in London, but on a deeper level resents NASA’s Ian Davenport’s theories on the origin of mankind and the revolutionary following that he has been brewing in the United States which stands in stark contrast to the scientific positions established by England’s heritage.

Ian accepts the challenge and during his travels to London and eventually into the ancient streets of Canterbury where a romance brews between he and the curator’s wife–he isn’t just an eccentrically brilliant scientist—he’s determined to crack old Dorrington for reasons that confound everyone whom he refers to as the Crystal Skull of Canterbury. He sees in Dorrington Weingarten the modern embodiment of the wounded Grail King from King Author’s legends and he has set in mind to solve a riddle that has nearly destroyed Dorrington’s wife now madly in love with Ian.  What results is a proposed answer to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Wofram Von Exchenbach’s Parzival contained within the elusive life of a man who did everything right his whole life—except for the things that really matter.  A man drowning by his own success, who had everything but lost it through the years without even knowing it.  But can he be saved, can the Crystal Skull of Canterbury be cracked?  It is a job that may be out of reach for the multitalented Ian Davenport who for the first time in his life may have found something he cannot do as an unconventional romance soon engulfs him as well with emotions new to him. For all his life Ian had avoided life in the Waste Land, but now a siren song beacons him from another man’s wife and the lure to surrender to it is strong—too strong. 

I’d like to keep the page count down although it’s a story with many twists and turns—and emotional complexity. I’m targeting women over 40 with this work first in England then in the United States.  It additionally attaches itself to the modern paradox of the many theories coming from the Ancient Aliens viewer base popularly shown on The History Channel and embraces new scientific concerns relevant to the next decade giving this story staying power as a mass market paperback.  The primary purpose for me was a promise I made to a nice old lady in Ashford, England who was kind enough to give me a very nice meal while my family was in route to Paris.  She asked me what I liked most about the English people, I told her it was that they still liked to read and bought lots of books.  I told her I planned to help show more Americans why they needed to become more literate.  She then pressed me on what I was planning to do specifically about it.  I thought for a moment because I assumed we were just making small talk, then I told her that I’d write a novel that was so good that people would want to read it, and bookstores would see an uptick in sales and therefore hopefully inspire others to do the same so that the industry as a whole could become stronger—in a business sense, and as a general philosophy.  She said OK, we sipped some tea, and  here I am doing it.  I always keep my promises.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Sign up for Second Call Defense here:  http://www.secondcalldefense.org/?affiliate=20707  Use my name to get added benefits.

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Defending the Cincinnati Zoo: Raw footage of the gorilla attack and the reason it had to be killed

I wasn’t going to say anything about this because I love the Cincinnati Zoo and it was really difficult for them to have to shoot one of their prime gorillas when a four-year old boy fell down into their very nice exhibit over Memorial Day weekend.  Unfortunately most of the news outlets did not show how violent the gorilla had been to the little boy cutting out the harshest moments.  At times the gorilla looked to be protective of the child, and he likely was.  But, things can turn nasty in a moment and anybody who knows anything about animals like these types of gorillas understands that once a human being is in a closed exhibit with a much stronger creature that trouble is highly probable.  So here is the original footage to add context to the situation.

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the best in the world and I commend the team on staff who had to make an incredibly difficult decision that will cost them greatly.  I don’t blame the mother, I don’t blame the kid, and I certainly don’t blame the zoo.  It was just something that happens and the value of such zoo exhibits are worth the danger.  It is really our responsibility as a human species to respect the dangerous tendency of all animals and not to provoke them.  Below is another example of an aggressive gorilla at another exhibit which might better explain why the Cincinnati Zoo felt they needed to act so quickly.  Notice that when the child beats on its chest in the reflection on the window glass, the gorilla took that as a challenge and attacked the glass—cracking it.

Here is the same exhibit where the same two gorillas got into a sudden fight in front of the spectators.  Listen to the stupid comments of the visitors.  The best thing a zoo can do is protect everyone the best they can and use the profit generated to help save more animals around the world.  For the best experience, zoos try very hard to put visitors as close to the natural habitat of the animals.   But danger is inherit, and that slight threat should always be present in the back of our minds while visiting.   Sometimes in Sea World when dealing with killer whales, people get killed.  And sometimes when dealing with dangerous gorillas bad things happen.

However, it’s important to have these exhibits for both the animals and the humans who visit so that our species can learn something from them.  They need our protection and we need to understand their nature.  When bad things happen, we all need to shrug it off and get to the next day.  The best thing you could do dear reader is to support your local zoo for the service they provide.  And if you live in Cincinnati like I do, make sure to throw a little money in their direction every now and then.  They are some of the best in the business and losing a gorilla is a great loss to them—and they need your support, not your criticism.  Zoos aren’t day cares.  They need to be respected as well as enjoyed.  So treat them that way and visit the Cincinnati Zoo as often as you can.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Sign up for Second Call Defense here:  http://www.secondcalldefense.org/?affiliate=20707  Use my name to get added benefits.