I looked forward to watching Ad Astra (2019) and, after a promising start, came away disappointed. It is the story of violent electrical storms plaguing earth and which somehow threaten the entire universe. The source is traced to the area of Neptune, where, 30 years earlier, a manned expedition charged with setting up a signal that would attract alien life, disappeared. It was commanded by America’s foremost astronaut, played by Tommy Lee Jones, obsessed with making contact, presumed dead. His son, played by Brad Pitt, has followed in his footsteps. He is sent on a mission to see what’s what. Along the way there are perils to be overcome. One of the dangling themes is man’s continued penchant for conflict despite astounding scientific advances, one that in certain cases extends even to total destruction to fix/end the problem. Others are the father/son dynamic, love and, the most salient, at least to me, isolation, individual in the case of humans, universal in terms of planet Earth. Pitt is excellent as a man who has tired of his role. His thoughts are often heard in voice-over narration. The first two-thirds of the narrative promise more than what is finally delivered. In the end it is another tale of a hero saving the universe — with a lot less action than most sci-fi flicks. The visuals are magnificent. I particularly enjoyed a land rover race to the dark side of the moon. Curiously, Donald Sutherland appears in a role that goes nowhere. The science is not complicated, which someone as challenged as I in that area appreciates. I also respected the inclusion of difficult choices involving life and death the protagonist makes. Unfortunately, I came away feeling the movie should have been much better. James Gray directed, his eighth full length feature. He collaborated on the screenplay with Ethan Gross, whose credits include four episodes of Fringe. 149,000+ users at IMDb have rated Ad Astra, forging to a consensus of 6.6 on a scale of ten, with which I agree. Made on a budget of $87 million, it returned $132 million worldwide. It received an Oscar nomination for sound. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary in that aspect. It runs a shade more than two hours. The title translates from Latin as “to the stars.” Here’s Pitt in character:

This morning the shelves at Stop n Shop were about one-third empty. I visit at about 6:30 AM, when hardly anyone is there. Today there were long lines of people stocking up. I bought my usual amount. There was no or Clorox or regular Lysol left, so I got a bottle of Lysol with hydrogen peroxide, a wondrous substance according to articles I’ve read, in this instance a bathroom cleaner, which seems symbolic regarding the situation, the hope that it’s so much shit, way overblown... This afternoon I was curious as to what percentage of folks are wearing masks. Of the first 30 passersby I counted, it was ten. Later, five straight people had one on. I went to work relieved. I did laundry and had lunch at the old house, and asked my niece if she had a thermometer. My temperature was 96.3. I bought a digital thermometer about 20 years ago, when I first started feeling flushed so often. Despite how hot my face felt back then, I never had a fever. I eventually forgot the device was there. Of course it was dead when I tried to use it… Another oddity about the coronavirus is being aware now every time I touch my face. I always try to do it with a knuckle instead of a fingertip, thinking — hoping — it is clean.

So far the situation has not affected sales at the floating book shop. Rarely does a session go by without at least a couple of people buying. I’d be surprised if anyone wearing a mask approached. Fortunately, two people not wearing one did today and took a lot of weight off my hands. My thanks to the young woman who bought The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands by Stephen King, and to the gentleman who purchased three large tomes on wiring.

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I was born in Brooklyn in 1950 to Sicilian immigrants. I’ve had more than 50 short stories published world wide. I have ten books in print.