Ah, autumn - the best of the seasons has returned.
Disregarding the symbolic connotations of the word "fall" - or perhaps subconsciously acknowledging them in a society that feels past its golden age - everything feels better in autumn, from the crisp air to the pastel-swirled sunsets.
Sure, as the song says, the days grow shorter and the temperatures begin dropping, even here in Hawaii. But it's all leading up to the holidays when we celebrate all manner of things we cherish as a society, from make-believe identities to gratitude to miracles.
Despite the inevitable whining accompanying the beginning of another school term, each new semester brings high hopes, too. Haleakala Waldorf School has launched its new high school, at Hui No'eau for the time being. Maui Interscholastic League football is in full swing. At UH-Maui College, each fall brings news from Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto about exciting advances in sustainability and problem solving in our ever-evolving island community.
Despite the cooler temps, fall is the warm, fuzzy season. Thanks to Hawaiian Standard Time, there's something reassuring about the sights and sounds of packed football stadiums and the optimistic promise of opening kickoffs in crisp September sunshine as soon as you turn on your television Saturday or Sunday morning.
Hawaii is unique in having the ethereal Rainbow Wahine volleyball team to counterbalance all the testosterone running rampant at this time of year. What other state of the union televises its women's college volleyball season live, statewide? While mainstream media and the chatterscape buzzed last week with dismay about Miley Cyrus, Hawaii's female volleyball stars were knocking off the No. 1-ranked Texas Longhorns, offering far more hopeful, wholesome role models of feminine strength, grace, beauty and heartfelt emotions in the process.
Still, there's also something undeniably wistful about autumn, the end of the growing season, the onset of shorter, darker days. That sense of time passing by was on my mind as I got my ticket for the concert-tour documentary "One Direction: This Is Us" that topped the box-office charts this week.
The choice attests to the week's slim pickings at the movies. Considering that One Direction is a phenomenally successful English-Irish boy band whose fan base is young teenage girls, I was beyond the horizon of the film's target audience. Just being in the theater could elicit strange stares.
Anticipating the inevitable comparisons to Beatlemania, and the scary realization that it happened a half-century ago, I was surprised by the way the film, directed by Morgan Spurlock, dispelled my curmudgeonly impulses into something happier.
It must have been the beat. Granted, I still can't tell band members Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson apart. And with arrogant Idol-maker Simon Cowell serving as both creator of the band and the producer of the movie, it's at least as much a cynical commentary on media manipulation as a celebration of youthful innocence - more Monkees than Beatles for those of a certain generation.
But the band members seem aware of both the dangers and fleeting nature of fame - and don't seem to be taking themselves too seriously in the face of it. Director Spurlock has taken some critical barbs for jettisoning his edgy comic sensibilities about our fast-food mentality in "Supersize Me," in favor of the big bucks of this project. But it's hard to escape the film's infectious energy as it circles the globe filling huge stadiums with the band's insipid lyrics and dazzling multimedia images, utilizing a multitude of cameras and superb editing to create a love duet between the likable boys of the band and their enraptured teen fans.
At one point, a neuroscientist explains the effect of the music, generating an excess of dopamine in the young girls' brains. It's not dangerous - it's just one more source of happy excitement in this season when we celebrate the stuff.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org