Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kin Tataka'

I'm pretty sure that I am the #1 of Jack Reacher on this island.

I never heard of Jack Reacher until late last year when I took my girlfriend to watch the movie. She normally hates most of the movies that Hollywood makes and doesn't like Tom Cruise either, but found herself enjoying the movie. I am a fan of Tom Cruise and I really enjoyed the movie. I am one of the most open person in terms of movies. I even enjoy moves that are terrible or that are just messed up in terms of their politics or representations. I know that Avatar or The Lone Ranger were messed up in terms of their politics, but I still enjoyed them. Yes they reimagined and reinvigorated stupid tropes that have marginalized and twisted the ways that we imagine indigenous people for centuries. But all that said, I still enjoyed them.

It is not difficult for my to enjoy movies or see some possible redeeming dimension in them. I enjoyed Jack Reacher at lot, but I was surprised at the way I enjoyed it. Cerebral and out of place characters are common nowadays. You can find many of them have their own shows, where they can display how awesomely intelligent they are while also showing us how imperfect they are in the ways they don't fit in, struggle with their inconsistencies and are super quirky. It is exciting when you encounter your first character in this way, whether it is a warrior, a detective, a lawyer or for most Sherlock Holmes, but it can get stale after a while.

Jack Reacher is definitely one of those characters, but is the kind I hadn't encountered before. He is someone who doesn't fit in with the world and makes no excuses for his dislocation, but rather than most exceptional character he doesn't hide away in some hermit cottage away from everything. He hies in plain sight in the places and spaces that people pass through everyday. He doesn't skulk away,  he moves constantly and driven to travel and see things that most people would find ridiculous. This is primarily because of his upbringing which was largely rootless, traveling across the world, moving from military base to military base.

He is "American" (half American white and half French white) but by the time he leaves the Army doesn't really "know" the country that he served with distinction. He decides to wander it, moving from town to town, live a bare bones Spartan existence, unable to leave behind in so many ways the Army-life that he lived with as the son of a soldier and then as a military cop for 13 years. Despite his desire to live without attachments he constantly becomes temporarily entangled in the live of others. In each book he forms an attachment to a family, a person, a problem and stays around long enough to resolve it and then disappears again. He is driven by the dual desire to serve that was hammered into him through his life in and amongst the military, and also his desire to see the menacing, mean and power hungry, who prey on the weak and the one's who cannot fight back, to see them suffer and be taken down.

This total texture you don't get much of in the film, but it is there in the background.

Reacher's intelligence comes primarily from his simplicity, the practical and bare bones way that he sees the world. He is something that catches everyone else off guard. It is almost as if his spartanlike social existence makes him incapable of participating in the so many of the fake niceties and polite falsehoods of life. The social lies that we tell each other to keep the chaos and potential violence of the world from gnawing at us aren't something that Jack Reacher really knows, understands or cares about. Most people don't walk out of a building expecting or anticipating that someone will try to murder them or kidnap them. Even if it is something that always could happen, most people tell themselves pretty regularly that it won't happen and can't happen. There are certain contexts which can change this, but this is all tied to the ideological ways we assign risk, often times based on our own personal fears and the privileges we have in society. In the book Tripwire Jack Reacher walks out of a building and is attacked by two men. While most people would naturally be upset, scared, freaked out and not expecting this, Reacher deals with it as if getting assaulted by mine while leaving a house is just as common as not getting assaulted by men when leaving a house.

But unlike those who are paranoid schizophrenics and are terrified by the limitless possibilities for the world to speak back to you, to mess with you, to deny you a sense of security or safety, Reacher accepts this as the nature of the universe and waits prepared for it. It does not create a feeling of paranoia, but rather comfort. He is more at home in those moments of tension, violence and danger. He is as if the world is reduced to simple force and the one with more force and power in that moment will win.

He is intelligent and sees things in a way that others don't. His mind is very clinical, but it comes from both his experience and the simple ways he looks at the world. As if his mind has the ability to smash through the layers of fiction to find simple, but casually obscured truths. It makes him a great detective and a good friend to have by your side when all has gone to hell.

I am looking forward to another Jack Reacher movie. He is not the Reacher from the books mind you. I know that now, after having read several of the novels. Tom Cruise is almost a foot shorter than Jack Reacher and much lighter. Jack Reacher also comes off in the books a hulking dumbass at times. A gentle giant, a straight talking, no bull-shit taking autistic titan. Tom Cruise can't reproduce that because of his stature, so he attempts to portray Reacher in his own no nonsense, confident as hell way.

From the film I moved on to the books and discovered that there have already been 17 Jack Reacher books published. I have spent the last four months reading as many as I can and have made my way through 12 of them. Today at Bestseller at the Mall I picked up four more books and when I finished them I will be one short of finishing every single one!

At the start of this post I claimed to be the #1 Jack Reacher fan on Guam. The evidence I have for this is as follows:

Have you ever wondered how to say "Jack Reacher" in Chamorro? If you translated his name into Chamorro what would it be? Well in Chamorro Jack belongs to the same domain as the Spanish "Joaquin." There are many nicknames in Chamorro for Joaquin, Chu, Kindo, Kin and others. The most commonly used today would be "Kin" and so that is the choice I would go with. "Reacher" is a bit more interesting to translate. To physically reach for something is "hago'" while to existentially reach a destination is "taka." These are both verbs however and the word "Reacher" would be a noun and could be defined as "someone who reaches."

In Chamorro in order to create this type of word there is a simple formula. Take the first syllable of the word and repeat it and put stress to its first repeated utterance. For example the word for kill in Chamorro is "puno'" and if you wanted to say "killer" you would say, "pipino'" The stress changes the pronunciation of the word and makes the u sounds transform into a i sound for sound harmony. You have two options here, "hahago'" or "tataka." As the title of this posts makes clear I would prefer "tataka" for reasons of poetry and harmony. It sounds better and it gives a better mental picture.

"Kin Tataka" would be Jack Reacher in Chamorro.

If this wasn't enough for me to gain the title of #1 Guam fan for Jack Reacher, I also collect the Guam mentions in the books. So far I have counted two of them. They are listed below:

From: Echo Burning:

 School, the center of her universe. He thought about it. When he was six and a half. The war in Vietnam was still well below its peak, but it was already big enough that his father was there or thereabouts at the time. So he figured that year would have been split between Guam and Manila. Manila, mostly, he thought, judging by his memories of the buildings and the vegetation, the places he hid out in and played around.

From Persuader:

Then I found a chisel. It was a woodworking item. It had a half-inch blade and a nice ash handle. It was probably seventy years old. I hunted around and found a carborundum whetstone and a rusty can of sharpening fluid. Dabbed some fluid on the stone and spread it with the tip of the chisel. Worked the steel back and forth until it showed bright. One of the many high schools I went to was an old-fashioned place in Guam where shop was graded by how well you did with the scut work, like sharpening tools. We all scored high. It was the kind of accomplishment we were interested in. That class had the best knives I ever saw. 

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