Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Purpose Worthy of Commitment

"A company that lacks a purpose worthy of commitment fails to foster commitment."

I read that today in The Fifth Discipline, an interesting book by Peter Senge. This is a book I picked up on a whim at Park Royal while Steph was working with Talbots sales clerks on a new jacket. I leafed through it, recognized half-a-dozen terms I've been encountering and dealing with over the past few years -- dialogue, personal mastery, reflective practice and so on -- and was immediately drawn to it. It's a biggish book, around 400 pages, and this is the second edition, just released. The original was published in 1996 and was hailed (says the dust jacket) as "One of the seminal management books of the past seventy-five years," by no less an authority than The Harvard Business Review, and as "One of the five greatest business books of all time," by The Financial Times.

We have a Financial Times fridge magnet at home. I have no idea why. I'm pretty sure neither of us have ever actually read an issue of The Financial Times.

Anyways, with all them glowing reviews and whatnot, I got a little excited and bought the damn thing pretty much on the spot. That was Saturday and I've been devouring it ever since.

I have to stop every so often and let the ideas percolate in my head; it's that sort of book.
"Perhaps the most radical of the five disciplines was personal mastery, the idea that an organizational environment could be created in which people could truly grow as human beings. Most companies today espouse some variation on [this] philosophy... and invest considerable sums in work force development, largely through training programs. But truly committing to helping people grow requires much more than this. I've listened to people... share their experiences for many years, and the emotional center of their stories is always the same. Through diverse life experiences they have formed an unshakable conviction of the power inherent in releasing and aligning human spirit -- and they are on a lifelong journey to discover what this means and how to do it."

I think I'm on a similar journey, in my own ham-handed, club-footed way. And reading this book is making me understand something -- or rather, it's helping me to articulate something that's become ever more clear to me over the past few years. I'm realising that there isn't a magic set of activities I need to perform in order to fulfill my dreams. I don't need to direct movies, or drive race cars, or fly a Spitfire in order to be fulfilled. What I need to do, what I've been craving all my life, is to integrate my work, my passions, my goofy joys and my humble triumphs into a single, seam-filled whole. I need to stop thinking of work as that thing I do to pay the rent, and discover what it is that REALLY keeps me going into the office every day.

Maybe it's fear. Maybe it's an inability to get off my ass and go fly a Spitfire. Maybe it's a need for approval from my superiors (or my inferiors, assuming I have any). Whatever, it doesn't matter. The reality of my life is that I work at my office five days a week, and it's a huge part of my life. And I seem to enjoy it deeply.

I love to do a lot of things but among them I particularly love to bring people together and help them to accomplish more than they thought themselves capable of. I love helping people to grow and learn, and in doing so experience my own growth and learning alongside them. I love belonging to a community of people who trust each other, who can be honest and supportive, who can push each other into ever-higher heights of achievement.

What's drawn me to management, I realise now, is my lifelong conviction that honesty, courage, humility and compassion really ARE the best ways to get things done and to make the world a better place. And that when you can build organizations that support and encourage those values, you build organizations that are greater than the sum of the people who make them up.

That, and the raw naked power of crushing dominion over others. Both are good.

Anyways, expect to see more "work-related" posts on this blog. Up to now I've been keeping "work" reasonably separated from the rest of my life, but I think I was mistaken.

"Perhaps when we rediscover organizations as living systems, we will also rediscover what it actually means to us as human beings to work together for a purpose that really matters."


I guess we'll find out.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Guest Post!

So we saw The Descent recently, and it rocked pretty hard. Which pleased us, because we were really pulling for the director, one Neil Marshall, to do good. We like him. If you haven't seen Dog Soldiers, see it. You'll like it. Or else you are bad.

Anyway, Steph got pretty jived up about it, and next thing I know, she's got me proofreading an essay-thing that she wrote about it, and as soon as I'm done reading it I say, "Hey, can I post this on my blog?" So here it is.

Everything I Needed to Know About Writing Horror I Learned From Neil Marshall:



Last night Corey and I went to see The Descent, the latest from Neil Marshall of Dog Soldiers fame. I loved this excellent and ambitious -- if flawed -- films for many, many reasons but mostly for these two:

  1. The moral of the film which is, in my opinion, that killing another human being is an act that is NEVER ACCEPTABLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

    (A pithy comment given how most of the killing we see in the news often comes across as 'justified' because it is killing that comes out of grief, survival and/or fear. In the film, Marshall shows us people killing under these circumstances and, as a result, we understand why they're doing it but, in doing so, he says, they move beyond redemption.)

  2. Thinking about the film made me suddenly understand why Corey and I haven't been able to get our horror movie idea up off the laboratory table, despite hours and hours of brainstorming sessions. (Get it? Laboratory? Brain? Storming?)


To elaborate more on this point (point #2), let me take you back in time to a few years ago when Corey and I (being both a tall and a short fan, respectively, of the horror genre) decided that we wanted to write a horror film and were trying to decide to write about. Having read Stephen King's Danse Macabre and also Shakespeare, we decided we were clever enough to come up with a way to think about horror and -- after many, many caffeine and alcohol-fueled conversations -- we decided that horror was about fear. For instance:

  • Fear of losing one's identity (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

  • Fear of puberty (I Was A Teenage Werewolf)

  • Fear of one's pubescent child who has suddenly turned into, like, a monster -- all cussing and masturbating and rejecting traditions and picking boyfriends who treat them like crap (that movie with Linda Blair which I can't name and even now -- just thinking about it a little -- is making my brain curl up like a worm on a fishhook)

  • Fear of going crazy (The Haunting)

  • Fear of being alone (The Haunting)

  • Fear of homosexuality (The Haunting)

  • Fear of the supernatural (The Haunting)

  • Fear -- in the post-Nietzschean world where God and the Devil are dead -- of the faceless, enormous and incomprehensible forces of the universe that make, among other things, the multifaceted eyeballs of flies and light-devouring black holes (The Haunting. I kid -- anything Lovecraftian)

  • Fear of the irrevocable things we're doing to the environment (Prophecy and Godzilla)

  • Fear of what media technology is doing to intimacy (Videodrome)

  • Fear of what genetic manipulation is doing to our humanity (The Fly)

  • Fear of women who like sex (Dracula)

  • Fear of losing one's identity AND becoming one of the faceless masses (Zombie movies generally speaking)


And so on.

Armed with such kuhnowledge, Corey and I determined that if we were going to write a horror movie then our first step should be deciding what fear and/or fears the movie was going to be about. Corey voted himself secretary, picked up his little black book and a pen and we sat down to hash out some ideas:

Corey: Okay. What scares the crap of out people?
Steph: Demonic possession.
Corey: (writes that down) Okay. What else?
Steph: Demonic possession is very scary.
Corey: Got it. Demonic possession is very scary. Any other things that are scary? What about dying horribly? Everyone has that fear.
Steph: Yeah, like when you allow yourself to be possessed by the Devil and then throw yourself out a window so you can tumble down a veritable mountain of stone steps in Georgetown so that you can crack your skull open and bleed to death thereby putting one over on Old Nick.
Corey: ...
Steph: That's a pretty horrible death, if you ask me. Death by demonic possession. You're not writing that down.
Corey: Look. Stephanie. Not everyone has this completely irrational fear of demonic possession because they were told when they were little kids that Satan could appear at any time. Okay?
Steph: Really?
Corey (pausing to consider the implications of saying 'yes', just for fun): ...
Steph: Seriously?
Corey: = )
Steph: You know, not being taken seriously by one's spouse is pretty scary. For the other person doing the not taking of the serious, I mean. Particularly when the first person is full of irrational fears and in possession. Of sharp objects.
Corey: Bad puns are pretty scary.
Steph: Let's try and come up with fears that are relevant to our society today.
Corey: What about the fear of being invaded? (Writes this down.)
Steph: Like by aliens?
Corey: By anything. Having one's personal space invaded.
Steph: Remember that scene in SE7EN where that guy has to put on that dildo?
Corey: Let's just start with the fears and then we can specific.
Steph: Good idea. Okay. Being invaded by demons would be pretty scary. Why aren't you writing that down?

As you can see, Corey and I weren't getting very far. There are so many things we can fear: global warming, Alzheimer's, teenagers who loiter, Satan, losing our way of life to religious maniacs with bombs, dying, becoming parents, watching our parents get old, men who are always scratching their balls, nuclear war, Paula Abdul, being rejected because we're: ugly, a girl, too tall (i.e., different from everyone else), &tc., &tc., &tc.

We were trying to come at the story from fear's point of view (so to speak), thinking we needed to have the fear first (because, remember, horror is about fear) before getting the rest of the plot, characters and all that stuff. Well, I have to tell you, maybe other people have come up with great horror stories this way but it sure wasn't working for us.

Flash forward to last night. Or, rather, today, when I was washing dishes and thinking about The Descent and how much I loved the moral of that film which reminded me that horror stories are ultimately moral stories. (I'm acknowledging King and Danse Macabre here as the source of this idea for me. Also, as I recall from watching the commentary on that movie which allowed me to think about it rationally for all of about 6.66 seconds, William Friedkin indicated he had a specific moral agenda with that picture and he thought he succeeded in bringing it across.) (If you want to know, watch the movie and then the commentary. Because then I will not be alone in my suffering.)

So then, taking this premise that horror stories are moral stories (thought I) the best way to approach a doing a horror story would be from a MORAL point of view rather than a FEAR point of view, if you see what I'm saying. And the more I thought about this, the more it made sense because -- you know what? -- morality can be fucking scary. Because what morality boils down to is two ways of seeing the world: the good way and the bad way.

To wit: let's say that we believe that women should cover their bodies and stay at home and not read and write. Let's say that's our moral: that women who walk around uncovered in public and/or who read and write and/or teach other women to read and write are BAD. Then let's see what happens when people, mostly men, let's say, decide they feel very seriously about this moral and also have access to stones and total impunity to use those stones. What happens then when they go looking for BAD women? Well then, the BAD women get stoned to death. That's pretty horrific, I'd say. And this is what horror stories (both real and created) are about: taking a moral and pursuing the consequences of that moral to extreme conclusions that can and usually do involve killing.

So then, re-examining horror stories with our black and white moral point of view (as opposed to our pea-soup-tinted fear point of view), I Was a Teenage Werewolf is about how boys who can't control themselves during puberty are bad and will get lynched. Or how that movie is saying (among many, many other things, which is one of the reasons why it's such an excellent film) that if the church doesn't step in and try to understand youth then it will be bad and thus powerless. Or how Videodrome is an example of 'the scanner darkly' principle (which I will elaborate on some other time) which tells us that we can only find ourself within ourself, not in the media's reflections of reality, which are bad reflections that will drive us to suicide. Or how The Descent is about how when we lose our humanity, even for a moment, we are forever damned.

Horror stories, horror movies let's say, are strange little pieces of work, when you think about it. They exist to show us how horrific things can be when we decide that the world is black and white. But, at the same time, we keep watching the things because we get a great sense of security from seeing the world work in predictable ways, when we see there are definite if horrific consequences (like death or madness or demonic possession) to our actions. To our bad actions. And that's a point that needs to be emphasized: a horror story isn't about watching what happens to people who are good. Horror stories are about seeing what happens to people who are bad.

So, if our moral is that "young people who don't do what they're told are bad" then when we get together with two of our friends to start sticking the lens of our video camera into areas where it doesn't belong, then we get what we deserve. And isn't that how we feel at the end of The Blair Witch Project? That those kids were TOLD, MANY TIMES not to go nosing around into the Blair Witch's business so it serves them damn well right.

Anyway, getting on with my point about Neil Marshall and writing horror stories and morals, that being:

if I want to write a horror story, I should come up with a moral rather than a fear and, more specifically, I should show what happens when people DON'T follow the moral.

Alrighty then...a story about bad people, about what happens to people who don't follow my moral...

Hmmm.

Let's see...

Okay, how about this: let's say that my moral is that people who don't believe in Christ are bad...that's a start.

So then what happens to them when they don't believe in Christ? Hmmm...well, Satan always terrifies the crap out of me, so why don't we bring in Satan?

Well, would you look at that, this moral approach is really working out! I've got my main characters: people who don't believe in Christ. And I've got my 'bad guy': Satan. But where's my action? What does Satan actually do to people who don't believe in Christ?

I guess he could tickle them till they peed their pants. Because peeing your pants is pretty awful. Or he could torment them by talking really loudly about the new Strokes record while they're sitting in a movie theatre trying to watch a movie. Hmmm. Or maybe he could appear invisibly when they're in a elevator all by their lonesome and fart, silently but perilously, so that they're awash in an unholy stench of unknown origin...

Well, I'll work out the details later.

Alrighty! Now we're cooking with gas. OH. HEY. I KNOW. Let's say that when people don't believe in Christ they go to HELL!

"Yes, Hell; where Satan belches fire, and enormous devils break wind both night and day! Hell; where the mind is never free from the torments of remorse, and your bottom never free from the pricking of little forks! (Noooo! Spare me the little forks!") (to quote from Blackadder.)

Okay, so maybe I'm going a little overboard here but I honestly think this is where horror comes from -- a need to frighten people into doing what we want them to do.

But why? Why do we do this?

So often (and I'll thank King's Danse Macabre again here) the morals we see expounded in horror films are morals that encourage staunchly conservative behaviour (aren't the Friday the 13th movies about what happens to teenagers who GET IT ON -- if you know what I mean, and I think you do -- before marriage?). Or morals that show us how people who are different will be killed or made as good as dead by being thrown out of the community as outcasts.

Or they're morals that remind us of what happens to us when we get too uppity, when we hubristic little humans think we can control forces beyond our control. Ripley survives in Alien because she is the ONLY one who actively and almost prissily, you could say, follows the rules. She's the one who tries to stop Ash, telling him that he's breaking the quarantine rules by letting John Hurt's alien-incubating character (who's name I can't remember right now) back on the ship. Rules are put in place for a reason, rules are meant to help us survive against larger, incomprehensible forces that are out to get us and horror stories will forever be about what happens to people who break these rules.

The Descent really stood out for me from other horror films I've seen because Marshall's moral seems to be coming from a less...conservative...place: don't kill people. Yes. Absolutely. If one is going to have a moral that is a good moral to have. But there is no forgiveness in this film. Because it's a horror film. And the bad people -- even when they're kind young Scottish women who are grieving and struggling to find themselves after losing their husband and daughter in tragic and unforeseeable car accidents -- MUST be punished.

And I'm not digressing here, really, because thinking about this agenda of horror makes me wonder if I really do want to write a horror story. Don't get me wrong. I'm just as full of "people who do _____ should have their eyeballs squeezed out" thoughts as much as the next person (and, except for maybe the Dalai Lama and Jesus Christ, we're ALL like that...maybe the devil makes us do it, I don't know) but I wonder if this is the kind of art I want to make.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Savage Breast, Soothed

Hurray for GarageBand, my lovely M-Audio "Keystation" (thank you Stephanie), and The Movie WAVs Page. I have just released my latest no-doubt-soon-to-be-topping-the-charts tune, Carpenter's Moon.

Making music is one of those things I totally suck at, but love doing. Unlike, say, football, which I totally suck at, and HATE.

There aren't many things I totally suck at and enjoy. Music. Drawing. And sleeping. I never really got the hang of that, which means I usually only do it five or six hours a night.

Which ain't healthy, but I'm just no damn good at it.

Anyways, yay! Music! Yay!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Y2K Spitfire

The Georgia StraightI went up to Comox this weekend to see the Y2K Spitfire Group's project. It was a beautiful grey West Coast day when I boarded the ferry for Nanaimo.

I was nearly born on the Horseshoe Bay - Nanaimo ferry. At least, that's the family legend (as is the legend that I would have had free ferry rides for life if only Mom had been a little swifter). Only a few hours after disembarking at Departure Bay, my mom went into labour and out I came. My earliest memories are of our house on Beach Drive, overlooking the ferry terminal in Nanaimo, hearing the occasional grinding crunch as one of those immense vessels carried a little too much momentum into the dock. BC Ferries have always been a part of my life.

Ray met me at the Departure Bay terminal and, after picking up my dad in Parksville, we drove up through steadily-strengthening sunshine to the Comox valley and the Canadian Forces base up there. Ray and my dad have been friends for nearly forty years -- ever since my dad (who was then a social worker in Drumheller) helped Ray and his wife adopt a son. They're nutty gearheads who are never happier than when tinkering around in a workshop surrounded by half-a-dozen half-complete projects, telling each other stories they've told each other a dozen times. Their shared love of cars is something that goes back to their early days together when they drove English sportscars around (my dad had an Alpine Sunbeam).

Many of my early memories also revolve around helping my dad in the garage, learning about internal combustion engines and the proper use of curse words. And inhaling the family legends, like the indestructibility of our old Dodge Valiant, and my almost-brush with BC Ferry history.

Project SignI heard about the Y2K Spitfire a few weeks ago, when by chance I saw a two-page spread in The Province on the project. These lads have acquired a Mark IX Spitfire from South Africa, where it crashed in 1952 and was consigned to a landfill. They dug it up in the landfill, had it eventually shipped to Comox and have been steadily re-building it over the last few years. It's still quite a ways from completion, but it's a beautiful sight.

The Spitfire also looms large in my early memories.

As a kid I had a scale model construction kit of a Spitfire. I treasured that model plane, even though I hadn't done the canopy right and had smeared the clear plastic with modelling cement. The wheels folded up into the undersides of the wings, and I can remember very clearly the panels on the landing struts that fit into the wing surfaces so that the whole underside of the plane was smooth and unbroken. I devoured stories about World War Two aerial combat, inhaling whole and undigested the lore and language of those young men decades before I was born. I was crushed to learn that fighter pilots required 20-20 vision; with my glasses my dreams of being a glamourous, reckless, cocky young fighter ace were dashed.

Although piloting a jet could never be as cool to me as flying a Spitfire. The Spitfire was another legend I ingested as a child. Arriving at the Tet Walston Memorial Hanger, where the Y2K Spitfire is under construction, I was practically hopping with excitement.

English WheelAt the front door we were greeted by two of the volunteers working on the project, Mike and Pat, who were great hosts and more than happy to show us around and explain the many mysteries of their workshop. Here Mike's showing off the English Wheel, which is used to curve the aluminium panels that make up the Spitfire's fuselage. It's been quite a struggle getting the panels just right; apparently the Spitfire is a plane composed entirely of curves -- no flat surfaces ANYWHERE, so every single panel has to be painstakingly molded by hand. They've certainly done a great job so far.

FuselageThe fuselage is complete now from the cockpit all the way back to the tail. There are many of those aluminium panels forming the body of the plane. The seams and rivets are perfectly flush with the plane's body. It is smooth and sleek and sculpted. This is an object whose obvious purpose is to go fast. Very, very fast.

I couldn't stop touching it. Even in its half-completed state it fascinated me. Ray and my dad discovered that Pat had, like them, grown up in Calgary in the 50's. They traded many stories about Calgary and aviation. My dad told his story about the mid-air collision between a Tiger Moth and some other craft; he and his brothers beat the fire trucks to the crash scene. Ray mentioned how his uncle Tom had been an aeronautics engineer in Calgary involved in airplane reconstruction. Pat beat them all with his story of how he FAILED to go up in the restored Lancaster that flew once from Calgary airport. "F For Freddy" -- the Mosquito that crashed into the Calgary air traffic control tower on May 10, 1945. The guy who landed his Tiger Moth atop the carousel at the Stampede. Sitting and listening to them, with nothing of my own to contribute, I felt like a five-year-old listening to the grown-ups talk. But I was more than content.

It's liberating to just listen sometimes, and to feel no pressure to contribute. We're so trained to contribute, to deliver information, that it can be wonderfully soothing to just shut up and listen for a while. It's rare that we get explicitly rewarded for actually listening, compared to the congratulations and fuss we get when we speak up, that maybe it's not so surprising, but still, listening is a joy and I like few things more than hearing a great legend well told.

GunsightThe gunsight triggered no end of thoughts and stories in my own mind. Trying to imagine a pilot keeping one hand on the control grip while the other adjusted the ranges on the sight, all the while keeping a dashing, darting target before him (one that's constantly adjusting its postion relative to his in three dimensions, at a combined speed of probably 600 miles per hour or more), I understood all the more clearly how it wasn't just my weak eyesight that kept me from being an ace pilot; I would never have possessed the necessary coordination to handle all that.

And when you think of how rare an individual who COULD manage all those skills with any degree of competence must be, and you think of how of those individuals, how many didn't survive more than a few missions, the real scope of the tragedy of war somehow seems even greater. Those boys weren't just anyone; they had brains and skills and physical gifts beyond what most of us have. And they got shot, or trapped inside burning, plunging aircraft, or were blown to pieces in the sky by other young men just like them.

I read so many books about aerial combat and yet I know almost nothing about these aircraft. I've never flown one, I've never sat in one, and until today, I'd never touched one. Looking into the cockpit and imagining the roar that immense engine must give out, trying to picture the rush that just touching the throttle would give one, never mind getting the thing up into the air and responding to your commands, was enough to shake me. I don't think you could ever be the same after controlling one of these machines.

PrintAt the end of our visit Pat thanked us for our time and our donations, and I came away with this beautiful print, signed by four actual Spitfire pilots. It's a lovely memento and a great reminder to me to get back to Comox and watch the progress these lads make on this beautiful aircraft.

As we were leaving, a tour bus pulled up and a whole raft of Chinese tourists came tumbling out, all piling into the workshop to see the Spitfire. I couldn't help wondering what they made of this half-finished English warplane from sixty years ago and the men who were giving up their free time to restore it. I didn't ask, though. Pat mentioned that this tour company brought a busload by every two weeks, and if nothing else, they bought lots of souvenirs.

The world has moved on very far and the river of time has torn down mountains since young men climbed into their beautiful, deadly, fragile Spitfires, and roared up into the sky to kill other young men. Now tourists from halfway around the world come to wonder at such a machine. And meanwhile young men continue killing each other, with nothing as beautiful as a Spitfire, I suppose, but the dead are just as dead.

But I remember lying on my stomach and studying a bit of molded plastic, dreaming of flight and freedom and saving the world. I would have given anything to fly a Spitfire, or even just to see one. And now I have. Time rumbles on, but dreams and legends and death and beauty never seem to quite go away.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The Cheese Stands Alone

Actually, The Road Warrior stands alone.

Both the film and the character.

It's pretty obvious why the film stands out so sharply against other early-80's action pictures: it was made by completely insane people. Seriously, there's some loony shit in this film, and the more times I watch it, the more I wonder WHO in god's name ever thought driving their Camaro under the wheels of an ass-hauling tractor trailer was a good idea. And how the director put together a shot list that included set-ups like: "Helicopter shot of a few dozen dune buggies, motorcycles and souped-up psycho-mobiles roaring at INSANE speed across the desert in pursuit of a tanker truck while football-pad-wearing lunatics wave homemade axes and bows in the air and then something explodes," without crunching the sheet of paper up and just throwing it away, laughing at his own craziness.

Fortunately for all of us, this group of completely insane people managed to hold together (Millenium-Falcon-style) long enough and somehow convince someone to give them enough money (now who looks crazy?) AND find a chunk of land that went on forever and nobody else was using that they were able to make this very very very fine picture.

It's like the late-80's Jackie Chan stunt team went back in time, migrated to the Australian outback, met up with Wild Aussie Bill the Junkyard Owner, mugged a football team and took up Insane People Driving.

I was astonished at a recent screening of The Road Warrior hosted by my lovely wife how many people hadn't seen this hoary classic of 80's goodness. It more than holds up -- watching it what strikes one is how even after twenty-some-odd years, still NOBODY has managed to top this film for sheer idiotic chase scene madness. The early sequences alone are enough to suck jaws to the floor but the finale is utter gobsmacking cinematic joy. There really is nothing like it.

Right to the final image, watching Max get smaller and smaller, standing alone on the endless road, watching the civilization he's fought so hard to save drive away from him.

Because as I mentioned above, not only does The Road Warrior stand alone, so does the Road Warrior.

It occured to me on this viewing, for the first time, that he doesn't go off with the folks he's saved. They drive off to their paradise, and leave him standing, staring, brooding his broody broodness by his wild lone self.

He is Cat Who Walks By Himself, I think, and all places are alike to him.

But why? Why doesn't Max join them?

Well, for one, because then he doesn't get to be in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Tina Turner in chainmail? Sure, you can't blame the guy. But if we assume the Jackie Chan Stunt Team doesn't get a time machine, it doesn't seem fair to give Max one, so surely at this point he doesn't know that Tina Turner lies in his future. So again I ask, why doesn't he get on the damn bus?

I've come to feel that this is one of the reasons the film stands so apart as it does; because Max does likewise. Max DOESN'T get the girl. He DOESN'T get the hero's laurels, parades, kisses, wealth, anything. At the end of the film Max is in far worse shape than he was at the start of the film. But we don't feel like this is a tragic film, and we aren't howling at the injustice of it all at the ending. It feels RIGHT, dammit. It feels JUST. But why?

I think I know. I think it's because if he gets on the bus, if he partakes of the things he's saved, then it's as though he did what he did for the REWARD. It makes him into a mercenary, and while we can understand that sort of motivation, and even share it in almost everything we do in our lives, The Road Warrior is saying, in its fast-driving, crazy-hair-lunatic-yelling, out-in-the-middle-of-the-desert way, that what civilization REALLY needs isn't bigger guns, more bullets and louder engines. What civilization needs in order to survive is for people to do what they know is right, without expectation of reward. When all we do is driven by reward, by pay, we are mercenaries of the soul, warring for whoever has the deepest purse, with no regard to what's really needed, blinding ourselves to the truth. In the hopes of what? Of belonging? Of the temporary safety of the indulgence of powerful monsters? No. We cannot accept this. We know it in our deepest bits.

Because the truth is, that like The Road Warrior, the Road Warrior, and yes, like the Cheese, we all stand alone. It isn't the rewards we gather that define us. It's the things we do in spite of the rewards.