Officer Norway’s Corner – Change of seasons brings memories

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

I love the arrival of more seasonal temperatures, albeit a few weeks late, but better late than never. Fall in Northern Norway during my childhood years was always special. I remember in early fall, which that far north usually arrives in mid to late August, the whole family would go up into the northern marshlands and pick Cloudberries that we would either make into jam or freeze to be used throughout the winter months for Sunday dessert mixed in with whipped cream.

Fall was also the hunting season for many. People would make up teams of around five people, be given a specific area to hunt in, and walk into the woods Moose hunting, usually accompanied by a Norwegian Elkhound, which also is the national dog breed of Norway.

I would join my Dad in the fall during the reindeer slaughter season, and we would drive up into the mountains and purchase reindeer meat directly from the Sami people, who are the native people of northern Scandinavia and western Russia. We would also buy pigs blood, and I remember my Mom would use it to make blood pancakes with pieces of raisins and pigs fat in them.

Touching on food, most days in a fishing village we had some form of seafood for dinner. One day we could have steamed cod, the next day, fried fish cakes or baked fish pudding. Needless to say, we had plenty of fresh seafood, and with fresh I mean right from the fishing boats and to the table.

Often when we had leftovers, one would mix fish, potatoes, and carrots and make it into a fish stew of sort. We usually had a dessert after dinner. Often we had a sweet macaroni soup, which was regular elbow macaroni cooked with milk and sugar. Saturdays was almost always a pancake or rice porridge day, and Sundays was always a meat day.

I remember I was in my early teens when I had my first banana and one Christmas my Dad brought home a coconut; I think most of the kids on our street showed up to have a taste of that. So far north, back then exotic fruits like that were hard to come by. Apples and oranges were usually what the stores had and around Christmas time we could get grapes and mandarins.

I guess some of you by now have started to see a pattern in my column. I figured that I could not just write about issues touching on school safety and the SADD club. It would rather quickly, I thought, be somewhat bland for many. So, alternating between my years in Norway, sharing a little of my upbringing and Norwegian culture and customs, is what I ended up doing.

Until next time, be safe, be warm and be happy.

Adam’s Apples – ‘Lost in the 50s’

By James Mack Adams

While I was navigating through my high school and college years a long time ago, more than one person told me those would be the best years of my life. That is somewhat true. However, I would like to amend that statement a little by saying those were some of the best years. I have been lucky enough to have had many good years during my life.

I do feel fortunate that I was born at a time when I was able to live my high school and college years during the decade of the 1950s. The decade has been referred to by some as “The Fabulous Fifties.” The economy was good after World War II ended. Crime was relatively low.  Children felt safe roaming the neighborhoods and playing outdoors until dark. The only drugs we knew anything about came from the local pharmacy.

It was the era of the poodle skirt, saddle shoes, ducktail haircuts, sideburns, Elvis (Thankyouverymuch), Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe (gulp!), athletic letter sweaters, sock hops, hot cars, drive-ins, soda fountains, the hula hoop, and classic (meaning real) rock and roll.

Automobiles did not have seatbelts. They had powerful motors, manual shift transmissions, tail fins, and lots of chrome. Helmets were not required for bicycle or motorcycle riders. Football helmets did not have face masks. We got our drinking water from the faucet, garden hose, or a well. There were far fewer health and safety regulations as compared to the present. It’s a wonder any of us survived.

Speaking of automobiles. In the 1950s, one could buy a new car for an average price of $2,000.  For those who were more financially successful and wanted a little more luxury and show in the family buggy, the price of a Cadillac convertible was around $5,400. Regardless of the cost of the car you drove in those days, the price for a gallon of gas was 18-25 cents.

A fairly nice house could be had for around $10,000. Sounds like a good deal, but you have to keep in mind that the average yearly family income was $4,000 to $5,000.

It was the early days of television and everyone had their favorite programs. Being a longtime fan of old cowboy movies, my favorites included the TV westerns that became popular in the late 1950s and continued into the 1960s. I seldom missed episodes of “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Rawhide.” If you are old enough, you may recall that one of the characters in “Rawhide” was Rowdy Yates, played by a young Clint Eastwood.

I had a close friend at the time who was also an avid fan of the TV westerns. I knew never to phone him while an episode of “Bonanza” was being aired on television. That made him very angry.

For me and a lot of my fellow 1950s teenagers, one of the crowning technical achievements of the era was the transistor radio. Prior to that, radios were large, bulky and powered by vacuum tubes. When the radio was turned on, the tubes had to warm up before any sound was produced. The development of the transistor made radios smaller and more portable. Also, there was no warm up time.

Those were good years to be young, but all was not rosy with the country or the world. The civil rights movement was heating up with marches and demonstrations. The Cold War between the U.S., our Allies, and the Soviet Union raised the possibility of nuclear confrontation and mutual destruction. The more powerful hydrogen bomb was developed during this time. There was a hot war going on in Korea. The space race between the U.S. and Russia was much in the news and on the minds of the citizens of both countries.

A few years ago, my wife and I attended a musical stage production at the Savannah Theater.  The show was titled “Lost in the 50s.” For a couple of hours that evening, I was able to relive my teenage years. My wife was amazed that I remembered the lyrics of most every song they performed, and that I could still dance “The Twist.” Like I said, it was several years ago.

Hood’s Winks – Clear on top

By Ralph Hood

(Adapted from Ralph’s book, The Tuth & Other Lies)

For a pilot, one of life’s greatest thrills occurs on days when the weather looks terrible, but the weather bureau reports that “It’s Clear On Top.”

On such days, the pilot taxis through puddles, mist, and rain. After takeoff, the airplane immediately rises into dark, bumpy clouds, and the world seems spooky, uncomfortable, and downright frightening. It is a truly terrible day.

Then a miracle occurs. The airplane rises above the weather—above the clouds—On Top. Instantly, it is a beautiful, gorgeous day. The sun is shining, the sky blue, the air clear, and the ride smooth. A good pilot can rise above most of the weather most of the time. There are people who live that way—people who seem to cruise through life On Top of problems. To those people, this poem is dedicated:

IT’S CLEAR ON TOP

When you’re down on the world, and it’s down on you,

When you’re down in the dumps, and life looks blue,

Just remember, it’s probably

CLEAR ON TOP.

Do you work on a tightrope without any net?

Do your bills exceed the national debt?

Hang on, chances are it’s

CLEAR ON TOP.

When money is tight, and the price is steep,

And you can’t get out, ’cause you’re in too deep,

Don’t quit, the odds are it’s

CLEAR ON TOP.

When you’ve run out of luck and nobody cares,

You’re fresh out of friends, and fresh out of prayers,

Pray harder, and pray that it’s

CLEAR ON TOP.

When your troubles are big, and you’ve run out of hope,

And you’re hanging alone at the end of your rope,

Climb higher, to up where it’s

CLEAR ON TOP.

When the going is tough, and you’d like to quit

Just keep on climbing, a little bit.

‘Cause God made it

CLEAR ON TOP.

Officer Norway’s Corner – SADD Club to address bullying

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

The month of October is the National Bullying Prevention Month, and of the many things I work with at Unicoi County High School, bullying is one issue that I am passionate about.

It’s also one of the harder problems to tackle, first and foremost because of social media. Often when school administrators and I are made aware of instances where bullying has or is taking place, we find out that this has been going on for a while, and what often brings it to the surface is falling grades, skipping school altogether or causing “behavioral issues” in school or at home.

Because of the seriousness around bullying, especially cyberbullying, the SADD Club has partnered with the National Stomp Out Bullying campaign, and during the week of Oct. 8 many of our SADD Club members will be wearing their blue Student Strong-Stump Out Bullying Now T-shirts and will have handout materials to raise awareness around this issue.

I am a firm believer that the most active partners I have on this and many other matters relating to high school students and the problems and challenges they often face are the students themselves.

All these issues and campaigns the SADD Club is working and engaged with are not all free. We get some free stuff from the organizations and causes we are promoting, but as every teacher knows, and certainly likewise for my SRO colleagues and others in law enforcement, sometimes one has to pay out of pocket for many things that otherwise are not available from your employer.

To raise money for our club, I decided to create a Facebook page called, “Officer Norway’s Corner.” With the great help of a local business, Reds Vinyl Decals, we designed a logo, got it printed on some T-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs, and through the Facebook page and on our upcoming stand at the Apple Festival we hope to raise some much-needed money for our club. Check out our SADD Club stand at the Apple Festival this coming weekend (Oct. 5-6) and help support a great cause.

Until next time, be safe, be kind and be positive.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Things really were cookin’ when …

By Connie Denney

Editor’s note:  The essence of this column was first published June 3, 2008.

When I found the orange folder with the words “Erwin Presbyterian Cookbook” handwritten on the front and 8.5-by-11 sheets inside, I knew I wanted to look further. It was among offerings at the late Edythe Manfull estate sale.

Looking through the pages, I was taken particularly by the advertising, which featured local businesses I had not heard of, regional businesses and products by brand. I did recognize names including Erwin’s, A. R. Brown’s, Ewald’s from conversations in which folks, who have lived here longer than I, said things such as, “We could buy anything we needed in Erwin. We had really good stores.”

It seems things were really cookin’ in Erwin.   

I knew the cookbook had come out some time ago but I found no date. There was no copy of the book’s cover but the foreword says, “We, the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Erwin Presbyterian Church, wish to thank the ladies of Erwin and others who have so kindly contributed to our book, as well as those who have so generously advertised with us.” Finding a time frame became a quest.

Now, I feel I’m not going too far out on a limb to say it was done in the 1920s. That took some detective work.

Here’s what I learned: There is an ad in the cookbook for Allred Furniture Co., B. M. Allred, proprietor. It proclaims “everything for the home—stoves, ranges, Edison phonographs, records, floor coverings, kitchen cabinets, etc.” It adds the words “embalmers and undertakers.” Nancy Gentry, Fishery Loop, tells me that her father, Jack DeArmond, and her mother’s brother, Ferrell Boyd, bought that Union Street business around 1930. Therefore, the cookbook came out before that time. She noted that the purchase automatically put them in the undertaking business also, not uncommon at that time. The Boyd-DeArmond Funeral Home was located on Tennessee Road.

That stately building is once again a private home. The late Fannie May Parsley, who lived there, gave further indication of the cookbook’s age. Her father, E. B. Clark, worked during the 1920s at Ewald’s, which was at the Main Street location currently housing Market Square (location of Choo Choo Café). A cookbook ad for Ewald & Co., Inc. says they were “dealers in gents’ furnishings, ladies’ ready-to-wear, children’s clothing, shoes, millinery, furniture and house furnishing, musical instruments, groceries and fresh meats.” Mrs. Parsley remembered that Unaka Stores was in that location later.   

Another affirmation: The Erwin Magnet had an ad, also. It noted the newspaper was established in 1891 and was the “only daily newspaper in Unicoi County.” This, too, would have been in the 1920s, according to Mark Stevens, publisher in 2008.

The cookbook included recipes from Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, wife of the President of the United States and Mrs. Austin Peay, wife of the governor of Tennessee.  They were for coffee soufflé and charlotte russe (had to look that one up—it’s a cold molded dessert), respectively. Coolidge served 1923-1929, Peay, 1923 until his death in 1927.

A contributor that conjures up intriguing images for me is identified as “’Bob,’ Chef on Car 2.’” In this railroad town that must have had something to do with a dining car on a Clinichfield train. I feel another column coming on—there is so much material here!

Officer Norway’s Corner – Michelsen recounts life in Norway

By Kjell Michelsen

For this my fourth column, I wanted again to write a little about my upbringing and life in my birth country, Norway. I have students and adults alike who from time to time ask me about Norway and Norwegian culture in general, and I am happy to answer.

I was born in 1965, so yeah I am by now the definition of middle age. Båtsfjord my hometown has for many years been regarded as “the fishing capital of Norway.” Although it was a small fishing town in 1965 with about 1,600 people living there, still today there’s only 2,300 living there, and I still have many childhood friends who still live there, working and raising families.

The main industry is fishing, there’s a handful of processing factories that service the fishing fleet and, in later years, the crab boats when they come back into the harbor with their catch. Many of these boats are rather small, often operated by one or two fishermen, while others are bigger ships with a crew of 10, sometimes even more than 20, so pretty much the whole town revolves around the fishing industry and its supporting businesses.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, especially during the winter months, the only contact we had with the outside world was with the coastal express, which is a combination of a passenger and cargo ship that comes twice a day or, if the weather was terrible, not at all. The road over the mountain was closed during the winter months, and it was not until 1973 when we got our own airport, which at first was just a dirt strip with a small building next to it, so this coastal express ship was pretty much your only ticket out of town. Luckily now they have, in addition to these ships, also a bigger more modern airport and a road that for the most part is kept open year round.

My dad was a master carpenter and had his own business, often servicing the fishing fleet for any repair needs they might have that required a hammer a saw and some carpentry skills. He would also make a specific wooden tool that the line fishermen would use as part of their fishing gear.

A big perk for me as a kid was every summer when the circus came to town. A week or so before they arrived, my dad would get an order to supply them with bags of sawdust which they used as a bedding for their animals and, in return, he got free tickets to the show which he handed out to my friends and me.

We had one church in town, which had and still has heated, cushioned pews, a nice touch on cold winter days. The church, like so many churches, also doubled as an activity center with various groups using it, from the boy scouts to Ten-Sing and other choirs and clubs.

In some ways, like I think many people do when one gets a little older, I sometimes miss those carefree and social media free days of years past. Granted life in many ways is more comfortable now, but it had a certain charm being able to play out in the streets, mothers coming outside calling their kids in for dinner and laying on the floor in front of the radio, intensely listening to a play or watching Gunsmoke on the one TV channel we had.

Until next time, be safe, be kind and if you can, be carefree.

Adam’s Apples – The accidental journalist

By James Mack Adams

I don’t remember the first time someone called me a journalist. I do remember I was pleased because I considered the title a compliment. I still do. After doing a little research on the subject, however, I am not certain whether my current contributions to this newspaper justify that label.

Miriam-Webster defines ‘journalist’ as one who collects, writes and edits news stories for newspapers, magazines, television and radio. That’s not exactly what I presently do. My writings in this space are more observation and commentary than what is commonly referred to as ‘hard news.’ That’s why this column is printed in the ‘Viewpoint’ section. So, I guess the correct title for what I do is ‘columnist.’ I’ll take that.

‘Journalist’ seems to now be popular as a general term to describe anyone involved in any way in news reporting or commentary. Before they were called journalists, newspaper people were called reporters. Before that, they were called newspaper ‘men.’ At the time, women were still a minority in newsrooms. 

I can still see a mental picture of the newspaper man as often portrayed in old black and white Hollywood movies I watched years ago. I see a man at his desk in the city newsroom using two fingers to pound out a hot news story on an old Remington or Royal typewriter. (Younger readers might want to ask an older person what a typewriter is.) The sleeves of his white dress shirt are rolled to the elbow. His tie is loosened and askew. His hat, with his press pass stuck in the band, is pushed back on his head. A lighted cigarette is dangling from his lips. My, how times have changed.    

Please allow me to do a little side-track editorializing. The news media has been taking quite a hit lately. Reporters are being maligned and threatened, and news organizations are being called enemies of the people. They say all is fair in love, war, and politics, but that doesn’t make it less scary. I was around during the 1930s when the same thing was happening in Germany. A free press is one of the pillars of a democracy. Lose either one and you lose the other. 

We are hearing the term ‘fake news’ being used a lot these days. To me, that term is an oxymoron. If it is fake, it is not news. End of editorializing.

You might say I entered newspaper work through the back door. I seem to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to publishing opportunities.

My first newspaper experience was editing the Tybee News, a community monthly for residents of Tybee Island, Georgia. I was also the reporter, staff writer, copy editor, layout person, and circulation manager. It was a one-man operation.

Then, my first big break happened. One of the editors at the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News liked my idea for a weekly column dealing with Savannah and coastal Georgia history. He decided to take a chance on a relatively unknown writer with little experience and no journalism degree. I must say I was thrilled when I was issued press credentials and given the opportunity to write for several thousand readers. 

I enjoyed my almost eight years of writing the “Historically Speaking” column for the Morning News. Meeting the weekly deadlines was stressful at times. I spent many hours exploring Savannah’s historic district and doing research at the Georgia Historical Society. It was a labor of love. The experience was very gratifying. Also, it lead to four books.

When I left Savannah and moved to Erwin, I assumed my newspaper writing days were over.  That was not the case. One day I had a sit down with former Erwin Record publisher, Keith Whitson. He was soon going to be short a columnist and offered me the chance to come aboard. Without any hesitation, I accepted. Once again, I was in the right place at the right time.  Thanks Lisa and Keeli for your continuing support.

It is now going on two years since that sit down with Keith. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. At that first meeting, I asked Keith what I should write about in the column. “Just have fun with it,” he replied. That is exactly what I am doing.

Officer Norway’s Corner – SADD Club off to solid start this year

By Kjell Michelsen

The school year is well underway. Football season has a had a good start, same with our Unicoi County High School volleyball and soccer teams. The students have settled into a routine, the freshman class students don’t get lost anymore and the buses are running on time.

The same goes for my job as an SRO. The job as an SRO could be a fairly easy one to “fade into the background with.” What I mean with that, is besides taking care of the law enforcement and security side of the job, the rest of the time, at least on paper, could be spent “watching YouTube videos.”

Now, that would not make for a very good and proactive employee in any profession, let alone in the role of a School Resource Officer, or as Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Leisure is the time for doing something useful. This leisure the diligent person will obtain the lazy one never.”

Most of the students at our high school have a fairly busy schedule, both academic, in sports and work outside of school, not to mention their lives on social media, which in some cases can make the three first ones small apples in comparison. Two years ago when I started with the SADD Club here at the high school, that first year was pretty much filled with trials and errors. As a new club, we are competing with all these other well-established clubs and sport teams, so attracting new members to a club with the acronym “SADD,” was a challenge at first, and although providing existing and prospective members with pizza and donuts during club meetings certainly got students to show up, there was little activity on the club level from most members when food and free T-shirts were not on the agenda.

That said, we had a core of members with a true desire to make a difference, and after a few planning and brainstorming sessions with these students, the second year got off to a much better start. This current school year is off to even a better start than the previous one, so we as a new club are certainly moving in the right direction.

As mentioned in my previous “Officer Norway” columns, we have several club activities planned for this school year. We were invited by David Crockett High School to partner with them for this year’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, and we are hoping that Tennessee High and Daniel Boone High School also will join us in this.

Teen driver safety is an issue that is close to my heart and high on my priority list, not only because I have a daughter that in a little over a year will be eligible to obtain her driver license, but also for the fact that the biggest cause of teen fatalities are accidents involving a motor vehicle, representing over one-third of all deaths of teenagers.

The last couple of years I have been working with Lieutenant Rick Garrison from the Fall Branch office of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and last school year I also got our local State Farm agent, Brian Poston. to help out in pushing out information to our young drivers about safe driving. It is indeed a team effort, and if we can just prevent one fatality it would be worth it.

Until next time, be safe, especially while driving.

Movie Night – ‘Chappaquiddick’ recounts Kennedy’s crash

By Bradley Griffith

Now available for home rental is “Chappaquiddick,” the true story of one fateful night and the consequences for a member of one of America’s most notable and powerful families. Whether you know the story or not, “Chappaquiddick” is an interesting film.

In the summer of 1969 United States Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) is living in the shadow of his deceased brothers, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Ted wants to break free of their shadow and, more important to him than anything else in the world, make his father, Joe (Bruce Dern), proud.

Ted knows that many people want him to run for president. Ted is not sure what he wants. Despite the fact that he is 37 years old and that he comes from one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the United States (or maybe because of it), Ted is still searching to find out who he really is and find his path in the world.

In July of 1969, Ted travels to Chappaquiddick Island off of Martha’s Vineyard to meet his cousin, Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), and U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), for a sailboat race. Joe also arranges for some women from Robert Kennedy’s campaign to meet them for a party after the race.

At the party Ted and Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) hit it off. Everyone at the party is drinking, including Ted. After all, it is a party. Ted and Mary Jo leave the party with Ted in the driver’s seat of his car. After making a brief stop to look at the stars they pass a police car. Knowing that he has had a few drinks, Ted wants to avoid the policeman as quickly as possible and speeds away.

As Ted takes a curve in the darkness of night he sees a bridge too late. The car flips on its top in a pond below the bridge. The next scene shows Ted, soaking wet and in shock, on the bridge.  Mary Jo never made it out of the car. Soon, the cover-up will begin.

It’s a daunting task to take on such a controversial moment in U.S. history for a movie. There are many questions the filmmaker must answer before making the movie. How will they portray Ted? Will they use only known and verifiable facts, or include speculation and innuendo? Will the movie be political, or just tell the story as it actually happened?

In this instance, the filmmakers made all the right choices. Without giving away everything about the movie, there was no special deference paid to Ted or the Kennedy family in general. The only decent person in the Kennedy family, and maybe in the entire movie, was cousin Joe. Neither the Kennedy family nor their advisors care about Mary Jo Kopechne. They only care about Ted and the Kennedy name.

Seeing a story that you have only read or heard about brought to life on the TV screen was surprisingly satisfying. The fact that the story is told as a movie rather than a documentary made the movie more enjoyable and easier to watch. At several points it feels like you get a sense of what Ted was made of, who he really was inside. But he never had the courage to stand up to his stroke-disabled father.

There are several questions that “Chappaquiddick” clearly poses to the viewer, and not all of them are answered by the movie. You can see how far Ted and his cadre of advisors are willing to go to protect him and his last name.

The movie doesn’t answer whether Ted was actually impaired by alcohol or how did Ted get out of the car and did he try to rescue Mary Jo.

Despite the fact that there are a few unanswered questions, “Chappaquiddick” sheds some light on this long-ago scandal and made this small bit of history entertaining.

• • •

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking (not kidding).

A Denney for Your Thoughts – The art is not lost!

By Connie Denney

Yes, the art of letter-writing is alive and well! Sarah’s letter is evidence.

Sarah Wolfe is a twenty-something friend who lived most of her life in Erwin. After moving (not far away, thankfully), she asked if we could exchange letters – handwritten letters.

She has a master’s degree in English, loves to write and is right up with the rest of the modern world using electronic devices. How refreshing to see electronic communications viewed as additional means, rather than replacements for keeping in touch through face-to-face conversations, letters, etc.

This attention to letters brought to mind two very different books. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a historical novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This story of the German occupation of the English Channel Islands is told entirely through letters.

“A Salty Piece of Land” (Parrotheads, as Jimmy Buffett fans are known, may recognize this as a song title also), is a fun read. Letters from a friend of the main character help fill in the details in this novel by the beach-loving author-songwriter-musician.

When I asked Sarah if she had encountered letters in books that were memorable, she mentioned the Guernsey book, which “is all about letters back and forth between the characters.” But, mostly, she thinks of “The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney.” She now has started her own – well, literally, it’s a box.

Discussions with her friend Amber, with whom she corresponds, and reading Jane Austen’s Letters influenced Sarah to write letters. She enjoyed Austen’s detail about life in Regency England and loves how letters, especially from the 18th and 19th centuries, are the voice of people long gone. “It’s like peeking in on them.”

As to how inventions and technology have influenced communication, in general; letter-writing, in particular, she thinks people in their late 20s-30s are “reacting against technology and going back to letter-writing and other things as well, such as needlepoint or macramé.

I think that people now want something that is more personal and fulfilling than just a simple or quick text or email to each other. Letter-writing truly does make you slow down and think, you savor the other person’s writing and it’s exciting to write back and forth with them, as well as look forward to receiving their letter.”

Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me of the importance of letter-writing in our history and, certainly, in our present. As for the near future, I’m thinking of a box of letters from family members. I know where it’s stored, but have not opened in a long time. They bear re-reading, perhaps sharing with others who would find them meaningful.

Here’s hoping that you may have a handwritten letter from a friend on the way. Or, perhaps, you could write one!

Movie Night – ‘Mile 22’ offers action

By Bradley Griffith

There are many fall movie releases that look to be suspenseful, dramatic, funny, and entertaining. Until those movies make their way into theaters, moviegoers will have to make do with the meager offerings at the cinema. If you find yourself in need of a high-octane thrill ride, “Mile 22” fits the bill.

James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) is a black operations agent for the CIA. He leads a team of operatives called Overwatch that doesn’t officially exist. The Overwatch team does all the dirty work that no one wants to see or even acknowledge takes place. His team consists mainly of Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey), and William Douglas (Carlo Alban).  Bishop (John Malkovich) provides surveillance and guidance from a remote location.

The opening sequence to the movie takes place in suburban America. The team is dispatched to take down a cell of Russian spies who have infiltrated the United States. The team is specifically looking for a stockpile of cesium, a toxic substance that can be used to make dirty bombs. The intelligence that the team relies on for the raid said that there was enough cesium in the home to make dozens of bombs. The operation doesn’t go as planned, and they find no cesium.

Sixteen months later the team is now stationed in Indonesia. Despite many resources being devoted to the cause, they still haven’t found the cesium. They get a break when a local special forces police officer surrenders himself to the U.S. Embassy. Li Noor (Iko Uwais) is a reliable source that Alice has cultivated. Noor claims to know where the cesium is being held. The information is on an encrypted disk to which only he has the password.

Noor wants one thing in exchange for the password, his freedom. He knows how corrupt his government is and declares that he will only give the Americans the password when he is on board a plane headed to the United States. But his government won’t give him up without a fight.

The opening sequence in the suburban home where Russian agents are taken down is the best scene of the movie. It’s an intense firefight and starts the movie off with a bang, literally.  This scene sets the tone for the remainder of the movie. “Mile 22” proceeds at a fast pace for the rest of the movie, especially when they try to transport Noor to Mile 22 to the American plane to take him away. The pace of the action is so fast that sometimes it is hard to tell who’s winning the fight.

It’s an action movie, through and through. There are some covert elements to the mission and to the team, but the movie is mostly about the bad guys and the good guys trying to kill each other, almost exclusively with firearms. It would be nearly impossible to count the rounds of dummy ammunition that were expended to film the movie.

There are a few cars involved, but no high-speed chases. There are a few good scenes of hand-to-hand combat, particularly one involving Noor and three men sent from his own government into the U.S. Embassy to kill him. The entire movie is not just one big gunfight, but that’s not far from being accurate.

There’s a plot to the movie, but its only purpose is to provide a reason why everybody wants to kill each other and why the Overwatch team must get Noor to a certain location at a certain time. There are a couple of twists in the story, but you won’t focus on those plot devices because you will be too concerned about the hail of gunfire being sent back and forth for three-fourths of the movie. The filmmakers do deserve credit because they did not pull any punches about who gets taken down in the barrage of bullets.

I like action movies, so I enjoyed “Mile 22” for what it is and what it is supposed to be, a movie where you can sit back and enjoy good guys and bad guys fighting it out to the death. 

• • •

Grade: B+

Rated R for strong violence and language throughout.

Hood’s Winks – Child abuse

By Ralph Hood

Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that the Catholic church has a problem. It’s not a new problem, but one that has dogged them seemingly forever—priests abusing children.

But this column is neither about the church, nor about the church solving the problem.

This column is about alleged crimes—horrible crimes—against children. The problem needs to be addressed in court, as are other crimes.

To my amazement, many say the church should straighten this out. Hey, would we say that if the criminals were Baptists, Methodist, Jewish, or Lutheran? No, we would try the alleged criminals in court. If found guilty, they should serve time.

Why? A better question would be—why not?

After all, we do have laws against crimes like this. Why in the world would we not use them to the fullest extent?

Our country does not turn alleged criminals over to their churches for trial and/or punishment—and rightly so.

Yes, the church will be embarrassed. But they are already. As the Pope himself said, he is ashamed.

Truth is, the church will probably be better off if the courts act than if the church acts—particularly if the church doesn’t act at all.

The Catholic church must be considered one of the most successful organizations in history. It has survived for lo these many centuries, and it will survive this also, even if without the current alleged criminals. Perhaps especially without them.

Perhaps I should mention that I am not Catholic, but Presbyterian. I would feel the same way if the alleged criminals were Presbyterian.

Officer Norway’s Corner – SRO shares memories of Norway

By Kjell Michelsen

It would be fairly easy for me to use my little corner here in The Erwin Record to only talk about various safety issues in regards to teenagers, be it substance abuse or the dangers of distracted driving, just to name a couple. Surely, I will write about those important issues too, but I would like in this column to write a little about my upbringing in Norway. Students and parents alike ask me about it fairly often, so I was thinking, “a little Norwegian cultural enrichment from my point of view would be in its place.”

One of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis is: “You are not from around here, are you?” Someone told me a few years ago, “just tell them that you were born and raised at the top of Hogskin Road in Flag Pond.”

I did not even know back then where Hogskin was. Now I know, and sometimes when asked, I will still answer the question that way. However most people take my bluff right away, but some, mostly people from out of state, just say, “Oh OK.” To be fair, I always end up telling them where I really am from.

Growing up in Northern Norway in the 1970s and 1980s was in many ways not too different than growing up here in Unicoi County during that same time period I can imagine. Yes, growing up above the Arctic Circle meant that we at times had rough winters. Snow usually hit the ground in late September and stayed until late May or early June. People also ask me about the weather that far north, I think it’s pretty much the same as it is on the upper northeastern coast here in the States.

As an SRO, I have to write a few lines about school in Norway. When I went to school, we had first to ninth grade that was mandatory. First to sixth grade was considered elementary school and seventh to ninth grade was junior high. In elementary school each class every morning, rain or shine had to line up in two or three rows outside, the teachers would walk out, do a head count and we would all march into the school towards our classrooms. We all looked forward to junior high, cause then we could walk in just like students do here.

We did not have a lunchroom or a cafeteria. We had to bring our own lunches, or for those of us who lived close by, we could walk home during the 30-minute lunch break. Those who ate at school would get a small carton of milk and an apple. Culinary arts in Junior High was mandatory, so once a week when our class had it, we would make our own hot lunch from scratch and eat it in the culinary arts classroom.

Norway has a state-sponsored religion, which is the Lutheran Church. Because of this, we had one hour of Christian teaching every day in school and every Christian holiday, like Christmas and Easter, the whole school lined up and marched off to church. With the influx of immigrants from other nations and religions, they did away with this practice years ago. Now they teach about all major religions, not just the Christian faith. 

The schools in Norway, at least back then, did not have in-school suspension, or ISS as we call it. For those students who got in trouble, was given something we called “parade.” Parade meant that for a number of days a student had to come to school one hour early and do whatever school work their teacher had assigned to them. We did not have school buses either, students had to walk or ride their bicycles to school. Because of this we never had snow days, we would go to school in an outright blizzard, and some would even ski to school. 

Our town did not have a high school (they do now) so after junior high, those who choose to enroll had to travel to the nearest city, which back then was around a 3-hour drive away. Because of the distance, high school students had to rent a small apartment in the town where the high school was located. Can anyone imagine today sending off your 15- or 16-year-old son or daughter to another town or city, living on their own while attending high school? Me neither. But times were indeed different back then.

By the way, some students still do this in Norway, although most towns, even the smaller ones now have their own high schools or “gymnas” as it is called in Norway. I have talked to some classes about the Norwegian version of high school graduation, which is pretty wild, and I might write about that another time.

In my next column, I am planning to write about a few exciting upcoming events that our school in partnership with a few other high schools and the SADD clubs in this area will have as part of the upcoming Teen Driver Safety Week and Red Ribbon Week which takes place in October. Our SADD Club is also planning to have a small stand at the Apple Festival this year, and we were lucky enough to reserve a traffic safety awareness trailer which was donated to SADD Tennessee from the country band, Little Big Town. Until then, enjoy life and stay safe.

Movie Night – ‘The Meg’ appeals to fans of shark movies

By Bradley Griffith

There are movies that are meant to be serious dramas, focusing on important and weighty issues that may shape not only the future of our country, but the entire world. These movies demand your utmost attention and consideration. “The Meg” is about a giant killer shark.

A group of scientists built an enormous laboratory and scientific research station in the Pacific Ocean. Part of the station, named Mana One, is above water and part is below the water line.  This team of scientists, led by Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), is out to prove that the Marianas Trench is not the deepest underwater location on Earth.

Dr. Zhang believes that he has found a deeper trench at the bottom the ocean. The reason no one has found it before is that, according to Dr. Zhang’s theory, the true bottom of the trench is blocked by a cloud of hydrogen sulfide called a thermocline. The thermocline traps warm water and allows animals to flourish at the bottom of the sea.

When a mini-submarine from Mana One pierces the thermocline and enters this unknown world the crew almost immediately runs into problems. They are attacked by an enormous sea creature, before they see their real problem. Just before their transmission to Mana One cuts out, the crew sees a shark thought to be extinct for millions of years. A megalodon.

Rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is flown in to attempt a rescue of the crew under the thermocline. As Jonas powers another mini-sub back up through the thermocline after the rescue mission he creates a temporary hole in the thermocline that would allow a creature of any size to escape.

This scenario becomes a reality when the shark, which is more that 70 feet long, attacks the research station. Even worse, it leaves the scientists and is heads for the open sea. The station is not far from mainland China, where the meg could wreak havoc. The scientists and Jonas must work together to stop the meg.

So, you should know going into the theater that this is a mindless action flick. That shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s a movie about a 70-foot prehistoric shark turned loose in the ocean. I was expecting corny and cheesy, and there’s plenty of that in the movie. What I wasn’t expecting were some pretty good and fairly original action scenes. It was a pleasant surprise.

The shark could have looked a little more real, but it’s obvious that a lot of money was spent to produce the movie and it shows in the final product. Other than Jason Statham the only actors in the movie that you may know are Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute to “The Office” fans), Robert Taylor (Walt Longmire to “Longmire” fans), and Cliff Curtis (Travis to “Fear the Walking Dead” fans). Most of the money allocated to the movie was spent on making the movie a top-shelf production and on special effects.

The first 45 minutes of the movie are not really about sharks. It’s about deep sea exploration as they attempt to break the thermocline and prove that the Marianas Trench is not the deepest underwater site on the planet. This part of the movie is interesting and is as good as any other movie about deep sea exploration. It’s not until after the meg gets free that it turns into a full-on shark hunt.

“The Meg” is not necessarily realistic, but it is based on a real shark that once roamed the oceans. The megalodons have been extinct for eons, but they were alive at one time and the thought that one might still be around is good fodder for this crazy movie and the novel on which it is based.

“The Meg” is not exactly Academy Award material. It’s a movie about a giant shark that wants to eat people, or anything else that it comes across. The movie is fun and funny. It’s the ultimate guilty pleasure. If you like shark movies you will like “The Meg.” If not, save your money.

• • •

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images, and some language.

A Refreshing Knapp – Advice for a great marriage

By Ray Knapp

My wife and I are heading to Atlanta today for my granddaughter’s wedding and I’m supposed to give a short speech at the wedding; kind of a pep talk on what it takes to have a great and lasting marriage. 

My granddaughter is an intelligent girl, with charm and wit. Besides being beautiful, she’s headstrong and doesn’t compromise easily. Mature for a young woman, she has a good job with opportunities for advancement. Her husband to be, has similar qualities, and you can just picture a happy and lasting marriage for the two of them, excepting that “not compromising easily,” while a virtue – can also cause problems. So…with my experience and wisdom, I’m going to give them advice for a great marriage.

First, forget you have a cell phone when you’re together and do a lot of talking. It’s not like having to talk all the time and drive your partner crazy, but you must be able to communicate on some common issues. Also try to put your partner’s needs first like, “What can I do today to make her/his life a little easier or more enjoyable?”

I know that a husband and wife’s “Date Night,” is cliché, but it really helps a marriage, especially if you keep your phone turned off when you’re out. And in time, when a precious child or children come into your life, and their energy is at the point of getting on your nerves, a date night without them is almost mandatory. 

Though working to be the best spouse you can be, marriage is not all about your partner. It is about you as well. At times everyone needs their own space; giving each other plenty of time for just them is the single most important reason that some marriages survive. I’ve heard people (men at least) say: “She just smothers me – won’t let me out of her sight.” I’m sure that’s true for either sex. Everyone has to have some “Me” time, where you can go fishing, or whatever interest, or hobby you have. A “Girls’ Night Out,” doesn’t mean women are out looking for another man, it’s the companionship of a few girlfriends to talk, laugh and gossip with; an evening to unwind from the pressures of work and being a mom.

Another cliché you’ve heard all your life is “Don’t go to bed mad.” Well, I’ve gone to bed mad more than once, and my wife was none too happy either, but there’s a point where further arguing will get you nowhere. That is the time to just shut your mouth and go to sleep. Just know you love each other, even when you have a hard time liking each other. It seems like your mind works on this as you sleep and both of you wake up in a better mood come morning. After all, disagreements are healthy, it clears the air as long as you maintain respect for your partner; no name calling or bringing up every past grudge; stick to the point of what you’re arguing about.

Be honest with one another, “always.” A lack of trust and respect works to tear the best marriage apart. Don’t exclude your kids when they come along, but don’t put your marriage on hold while you’re raising them or else you will end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage. Never talk badly about your spouse in front of other people, (including your children) or vent about them online. Try to be their biggest supporter, not their worst critic.

Some heated arguments have happened between me and my wife because one or the other didn’t understand what was said; listen to what they are saying don’t just hear them.

My final advice about getting married is this: Don’t invite family and friends. They may love the ceremony, free food and champagne. But you could save on money, frazzled nerves, and unwanted advice if you eloped, flew down to Montego Bay, or some other exotic destination and have a private barefoot ceremony on the beach. You would be at your honeymoon destination with only each other to hold and make fond memories. – Just sayin’.

Movie Night – ‘Winchester’ rooted in real history

By Bradley Griffith

Other than “Mission Impossible: Fallout,” the pickings are pretty slim at the theater right now.  So, you may want to turn your attention to home rentals. The trailers for “Winchester” made it look mildly interesting, though maybe not as frightening as the filmmakers hoped, which turned out to be an accurate assessment of the movie.

Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) is the widow of William Winchester. William was the founder and owner of Winchester Repeating Arms Company, the company that revolutionized the firearms industry in the late 1800s with its repeating action rifle. After his death, Sarah inherited his fortune and his majority share of stock in the company.

In the year 1906, Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is hired by the Board of Directors of the Winchester Company to perform a mental assessment of Sarah Winchester. The Board wants to know if Ms. Winchester is mentally competent to make decisions for the company as the majority shareholder. In other words, they want to divest her of any decision-making ability with regard to the company.

Sarah believes that she and the Winchester family are cursed. She believes that the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles haunt her, seeking vengeance, peace, or both. Sarah built a sprawling mansion in San Jose, California, that she believes is haunted by these ghosts. The mansion is in a never-ending state of construction. Sarah insists that additional rooms be built 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When Dr. Price arrives at the mansion he learns the reasoning behind the constant construction. Sarah believes that she can help the spirits that haunt her find peace. The spirits who remain too angry and upset to find peace are kept in rooms in the home. These rooms are kept locked with wooden bars over their doors with 13 nails holding the bars in place. Sarah believes these thirteen nails will keep the spirits locked in their rooms until they are ready to find peace. As if that wasn’t enough for him to deal with, Dr. Price has his own demons to wrestle with since the death of his wife.

“Winchester” is one of the more unusual new movies available for home rental right now. It’s not unusual because it is supposed to be a horror movie or due to any special technique in filming the movie. It’s unusual because much of it is rooted in real history. In fact, the Winchester house is still standing in San Jose, California. It is allegedly a haunted house, but one that has its own website and charges fees for tours.

The history of the house drew my interest to the movie. The Winchester house plays such a large part in the movie that it could be considered the main character. In addition to the locked rooms, there are stairways that lead to nowhere and rooms that have no door, among other eccentricities. More than anything else about the movie, the house itself is intriguing. It’s amazing that this house actually exists and is now open to the public.

The main problem with the movie is that, even though the movie is about a curse and features many ghosts and despite the fact that the filmmakers wanted the movie to be scary, it was not frightening in the slightest. In fact, the movie would be better categorized as a historical thriller than a horror movie. If you are looking for a good movie to turn out all the lights and at least be creeped out a little, choose another movie.

There were no great acting performances in “Winchester.” Helen Mirren has seemingly become more sought after as she aged, a rare accomplishment in Hollywood. But playing Sarah Winchester is not her finest hour, likely because of the material she was given. The production of the movie seemed inexpensive, as if they cut costs at every corner to the detriment of the movie.

“Winchester” falls into the mediocre category, where most movies reside. Not great, but not awful either.

• • •

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, drug content, some sexual material, and thematic elements.

Adam’s Apples – Too much stuff

By James Mack Adams

Have you ever looked around your house and decided you have too much stuff? Do you at times hesitate to buy new stuff you would like to have because you have no place to put more stuff? The house, attic and basement are filled with stuff. Forget about parking the car in the garage because the garage is filled with stuff.

I would guess that, like me, some of the stuff you own you haven’t used for years. Other stuff you probably have forgotten you have. You hesitate to get rid of stuff because someday you might need the stuff you discard. Right?   

If this subject seems familiar to some of you, that is because it probably is. Now deceased comedian, George Carlin, once did a hilarious standup routine on the subject of “Stuff.” I recently re-watched a video of Carlin’s routine to insure I would not plagiarize. The comments I write here are my own, but a thank you and a tip of the hat goes to Carlin for giving me the idea for this column.

I really didn’t worry about having too much stuff until I got older and decided it was the time in my life to downsize. I needed to unload a lot of my stuff. How much stuff does a person need? I looked around my house and said, “What am I going to do with all this stuff?” 

Getting rid of unwanted stuff is sometimes hard to do. Our first thought might be to give our stuff, or at least some of our stuff, to our children and grandchildren. Often, however, our children and grandchildren don’t want our stuff because they have their own stuff and no place to put more stuff.    

So, what are some alternatives?

Of course, there is the ever-popular garage or yard sale. We move some of our stuff to the yard or garage and hope some folks will stop and buy our stuff. People who buy our stuff take it home and put it with their stuff. Those people will probably someday complain about having too much stuff and will have their own yard sale. It’s a vicious cycle.

If we are feeling charitable, we can always give our stuff away. Goodwill and other charitable outlets will usually be glad to get our unwanted stuff. It could be just the stuff for which their customers are looking. At tax time, the IRS will allow us a deduction for the value of the stuff we give to charity.

When I decided to move permanently back to my East Tennessee roots a few years ago, I found myself faced once again with the problem of too much stuff. I had a condo in Georgia that was filled with stuff. That included the two attics and a garage full of stuff. Much of the stuff had been with me for a good chunk of my life and evoked fond memories. As you know, that is the kind of stuff with which a person hates to part. Once again, I asked myself: “What am I going to do with all this stuff?”

I gave some of the stuff to family, but I still had a lot of stuff left. So, I pursued another option … the estate sale. After I signed the contract, the folks representing the estate sale company told me my worries were over. They said they would handle everything, for a fee of course. I could take a vacation and they would dispose of all my stuff. That’s what they did. Most of the stuff was sold. Some of the stuff was donated. Like most people, I suppose, I had some stuff that was broken or otherwise useless. That stuff was trashed.    

It occurs to me we spend the first three quarters of our lives accumulating a lot of stuff, and the final quarter of our lives trying to get rid of our stuff. 

I read recently that some younger people, who are called millennials, are deciding it is better to own less stuff. Millennials are defined as people born between the years 1981 and 1996. They would now be between the ages of 22 and 37. 

The term ‘minimalists’ is often used to describe those who embrace this stuff-free lifestyle. To the minimalist way of thinking, the less stuff a person owns the better off they are. They say owning less stuff makes them feel less encumbered, freer, and therefore happier. 

They may have an arguable point.

Officer Norway’s Corner – SRO focused on safety of students, teachers

By Officer Kjell Michelsen

A new school year is just days away and with that, what better time to write my first few lines in my own little corner here in The Erwin Record – Officer Norway’s Corner.

Now, first off, “Officer Norway” is not my real name, which is, Kjell Michelsen, hence the need for a nickname! The Norwegian part of that nickname is from the fact that I was born and raised in a small fishing village in Northern Norway, named Båtsfjord. How I ended up here in little Erwin is a longer story.

Anyhow, my job the majority of the year is being assigned by the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department as a School Resource Officer to the high school. That is where my passion is, to not only be a resource as the title mentions to the school, but also to ensure to the best of my abilities the safety of our students, our school, faculty, and staff.

I might be just one law enforcement officer at the school, but this job is indeed a team job if there ever was one. It’s a team of not only fellow officers but faculty, staff and maybe most importantly the students themselves.

Besides my main focus which is safety, one of my best jobs at the high school is to be an advisor for our student-driven SADD club. SADD stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions and is one of the biggest youth organizations in the U.S. For more than 30 years, SADD has been committed to empowering young people to lead education and prevention initiatives in their schools and communities.

We are a new club, only a couple of years old, but we already have visited other schools in our county, talking to younger students about the dangers of substance abuse, smoking, etc. Earlier this year we entered into a nationwide video contest about the dangers of driving in the dark and was selected as one of the top 10 entries.

We have sent students for a free of charge leadership retreat to Nashville and have had many safety focused campaigns at the school. I encourage especially incoming freshmen, but also other students, to be a part of something that can change lives in so many positive ways. It does not cost anything to be a SADD club member; all we want is a drive and a willingness to help each other, after all, it’s the most effective force in prevention. See you on the first day of school.

Hood’s Winks – Gone, but not forgotten

By Ralph Hood

As mentioned often in this column, I was a professional speaker for several decades. I was proud to be a journeyman in the trade, but was never one of the great stars.

I knew the great stars, though, and several were my very good friends. Three of them come to mind often.

Robert Henry was my first speaking mentor. He was perhaps the funniest speaker in Alabama at the time and one of the funniest in the country. He took the time and effort to encourage me to become a professional, and helped me greatly along the way.

I’ll never forget Robert’s last speech. It was for the convention of the National Speakers Association, and Robert was a very sick man. His speech, though, was absolutely wonderful. Those of us who loved him—and many did—were at the point of tears when he finished. I visited him at home soon after.

Robert died shortly thereafter, but is still missed by all who remember him.

Rosita Perez was another great speaker and a delightful friend. Of Cuban descent, she wore a flower in her hair, played the guitar, sang, and spoke. She was wonderful—on or off stage—and a joyous person. Everyone loved Rosita.

I visited Rosita at her home shortly before her death.

Then there was Bryan Townsend. Bryan was first and foremost a Christian, and also a great husband, father, and friend. He started and taught a Sunday school class for men. The class grew so fast that it actually built a new building for the church.

Almost secondarily, Bryan was a truly great speaker. I was his mentor at first, but he quickly surpassed me in every way.

We remained great friends. I remember the night when I was speaking in Virginia and Bryan’s daughter called to tell me, just before my speech, that Bryan had suffered a stroke and might not live.

Bryan did not live, and professional speakers from all over the country attended his funeral, along with many of his fellow church members and local friends.

These three people had a great influence over those who heard them speak. All of them wrote books, and I’d bet they’re still being read today.

Henry, Rosita, and Bryan were great speakers in addition to being exceptional people. I was one of the many who loved them, and delight in remembering them to this day.

Movie Night – ‘Mission Impossible’ sequel offers non-stop action

By Bradley Griffith

It’s not been a great summer for movies. There were a few standouts, but most of the summer releases have been of average quality. If these movies were enough to almost lull you to sleep, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is the elixir we all needed to pump life back into the theater. It also happens to be the best movie of the year.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is not only an agent for the Impossible Mission Force, he is the quintessential agent for the IMF. When a job absolutely has to get done, the IMF always turns to Ethan and his team of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames).

It’s been two years since Ethan captured Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the leader of a global terrorist group known as the Syndicate. The remaining members of the Syndicate have formed their own organization called the Apostles. The Apostles are making a deal to sell three stolen plutonium cores to a radical fundamentalist who goes by the name John Lark, though no one knows what Lark looks like, or even his real name.

What they do know about John Lark is that he wrote a manifesto advocating chaos and death on a global scale to supposedly help save the planet. Lark can use the three plutonium cores to make three man-portable nuclear bombs. Ethan and his team can’t let Lark get his hands on the plutonium.

After an unsuccessful attempt to intercept the plutonium before it reached the Apostles, Ethan decides to pose as John Lark to the broker of the plutonium sale, the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). Since no one knows what Lark looks like, the White Widow won’t know that Ethan is not Lark. Problems arise for Ethan when the CIA insists that one of their agents, August Walker (Henry Cavill), accompany him on the mission. Things get even more complicated when disgraced MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) shows up at Ethan’s meeting with the White Widow. Ethan must put all distractions aside so he can once again save the world.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout” is the mother of all action movies. There’s not only non-stop action throughout the movie, but the action scenes are so inventive and well-done that it’s hard to believe what you are seeing on the screen is not real. In one scene Ethan is being chased through the streets of Paris on a motorcycle. He travels down the roadways in the wrong direction and is nearly killed by oncoming traffic no less than a dozen times, and each time it felt so real I could almost feel the breeze off each car as it came oh so close to Ethan’s motorcycle.

Maybe the best scene of the movie is a helicopter chase near the end. It’s likely the best helicopter scene ever filmed for a movie. The special effects and stunts for this scene – and the entire movie – are amazing. A scene involving a high-altitude, low oxygen parachute jump featuring Cruise and Henry Cavill required over 90 takes before it was perfect. At age 56 Cruise doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

But, don’t make the mistake of thinking that “Fallout” is only about action. The story of the movie extends from the last movie in the franchise, “Rogue Nation,” and it’s both interesting and intriguing. The movie includes double-crosses on top of double-crosses and the story works perfectly to seamlessly support the action scenes.

“Fallout” brought back all of the characters you loved from “Rogue Nation” (except for Jeremy Renner), including Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust. The film added Henry Cavill as August Walker to shake up the tight-knit family that is Ethan’s team.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout” has spectacular action scenes with jaw-dropping stunts. It’s not only the best movie in the franchise and the best movie of the year, but also one of the best action movies of all time. It’s flat-out awesome.

• • •

Grade: A+

Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.