Sunday, January 27, 2013

For shame, Zero Dark Thirty

I finally saw both Zero Dark Thirty and The Hobbit yesterday. The Boy and I agreed The Hobbit was too long. Twelve dwarves is about five too many.

Saw Zero Dark Thirty by myself. I’d been wanting to see it for forever, but just chalk that up to one more reason I hate the holidays. Now after all the hullabaloo in the press, all I could think about was the 45 minutes of torture I’d heard begin the movie.

I still remember this Oprah Winfrey movie from some number of years ago. The first scene was the onscreen killing of a dog. I don’t remember fuck-all else about the movie except leaving the theater hating it because of that first scene. Not the character who killed the dog, the whole movie. Beloved, I think it was called.

I was afraid this was going to be a repeat of that, or the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan—dude, if I had wanted to get that close to combat, I’d have signed up—but was happily disappointed.

Violence-wise, from the standpoint of, say, basic cable’s The Walking Dead, this episode would be considered a snoozer. The controversy about torture is way overblown.

But the controversy isn’t about the explicitness of the scenes—which as I say, are tame compared to basic cable or the average Saw installment—it’s that the filmmakers purport to represent an accurate portrayal of American behavior in wartime. And we don’t want to believe what this movie shows us about ourselves.

Because of course Americans don’t torture, not even in time of war, that sort of thing is repellent to us. And of course we wouldn’t quarantine and relocate an entire sector of our citizenry, based solely on race, certainly not as recently as the 20th century. Nor would we test experimental medicines on Black soldiers, nor would we reduce a second enemy city to atomic rubble after witnessing the horror of the consequences of the first. And so forth.

There are so many things that we, as exceptionally exceptional Americans, would never stoop to because we’re better than that. I swear, there has got to be a black-ops dept. somewhere in charge of convincing us we’re much better than everybody else on earth who is made of the same stuff and battling the same inner demons.

Americans aren’t necessarily any better or worse than anybody else, and we’re not any more gullible than anyone else to believing that we are. In drama, the secret to creating a compelling villain is to write/play the character as someone who sees himself as The Good Guy. The same is true for a running a sweet-smelling government.

And Zero Dark Thirty rubs our face in the fact that, even as Americans, we’re still just human after all.

Where the hell have I been?

A friend asked me recently why I haven’t blogged lately and my initial response was, “Somebody reads my blog?”

So think of this as less of a blog and more of a note to D-from-A, catching him up on my little life.

Let’s see, when did I bail…? We had an election in November, happy outcome. Loser… [um, geez, I want to say Rip Chutney? …Brit Rockne?] has already retired from public life, one assumes returning to raping and pillaging financially-troubled companies. (Motto: We didn’t build that, but we will buy it from you for pennies on the dollar.)

Prez. Barack is still killing bad guys and random strangers with unmanned drones overseas. It’s supposed to be a scandal, but to me, it sure as fuck beats invading a country with overwhelming force. And as far as civilian casualties, I’d bet my last nut that we rack up fewer of them with targeted assassinations than 24/7 carpet bombing. In a time of asymmetrical warfare, it’s a lovely, life-saving innovation. And yeah, I know it was a Bush administration carryover, but even a broken clock can be right twice a day.

[...uhm Chet Rumpley?]

The president also gave a shout-out, explicitly, to the gay community in his inauguration speech. Even if the other candidate hadn’t been a 4th-rate cartoon super-villain, that recognition alone would have made me happy I voted for Obama.

Over on the personal side, I still miss living in California and “miss” is soft-pedaling it. If there is anybody else in Idaho—besides my friends in the lesbian and martial arts communities—at all like me, I don’t know where to find them, and I’ve been looking since we got here. I even joined shit to meet like-minded people, and I am not a joiner. But apparently I vibrate at a different pitch than my fellow Idahoans, and usually feel like I’m coming across somewhat pixilated.

That’s all for that.

Grateful that the holidays were finally behind me and more than ready to unwind a little, we woke up New Year’s morning to find the heater had been off all night. Broken but good. The family had to flee to a local hotel to avoid indoor frostbite. I can’t really say it seemed an ill portent for new year; Leslie’s unstoppable pneumonia from before Christmas to well after Jan. 1 had already done that. The heater incident was just the second Fate standing up and saying, “I second that motion!”

Here’s something good that happened, though. My best friend from 4th grade finally found me via the interwebs. It turns out we’ve both been looking for each other for a while, and when he tried a variation on my name, finally came across my site.

This wouldn’t be interesting to anybody but he and me except for the fact that, having started out from the same place, it’s interesting how differently our lives played out. (I think at 50 it’s fair to take a peek back; we’ve pretty much both arrived at where we’re gonna be.)

We’ll call my friend “Bob” because it’s quick and easy to type. Also, “Danny” was taken.

Bob left our severely white-trash south Chicago suburb at the beginning of 5th grade, I at the beginning of 7th. He moved to a rural community in Indiana, went to a one-room, K-12 schoolhouse, he’s still married to his high school sweetheart, went to Notre Dame and now I am guessing makes a comfortable living on his own terms. And has four daughters to fill his golden years with grandchildren.

Fang’s family left for Arizona, where he was almost immediately drawn into a life of booze, drugs and juvenile delinquency. As my faithful reader knows, it was downhill with a bullet after that for a good 25 years. I’m still pulling myself out of holes I’ve dug for myself.

Bob moved to Mayberry and became Jimmy Stewart, I moved to the middle of the desert and became Iggy Pop. As we swapped stories about our lives, I became more and more jealous of his. Sure, I’d seen more concerts and done more ‘stuff,’ but he was, like, you know… happy and not crazy.

I would trade a lifetime of happy and not-crazy for all the wild and crazy youthful indiscretions in the world.

Besides that, he’s the only guy I know who started out where we did—full disclosure, I’m talking about Glenwood, Illinois—who went on to live the honest-to-gosh American Dream in its Cinemascope fullness. Everybody else I know from then and there is damaged goods, even the successful ones. Or dead (seriously).

Pretty sure he’ll never read this, but talking to Bob this week gave me the shot in the arm I needed. Somewhere out there, good things actually do happen to good people. I haven’t seen or heard about that first-hand in ages and had lost hope long ago.

Obviously, there is no hope left for me. As I said at the top, at 50, I’m pretty much who, what and where I’m going to be in life. But The Boy… He’s tall and not unattractive. Smart. Funny… Even-tempered, an attribute for which I am eternally grateful to The Missus for having genetically contributed...

It made me realize that, if The Dream actually is real, maybe if we don’t fuck anything up too badly, we can set The Boy on the road to realizing it for himself.

Shit howdy, man, it’s something to work toward, anyhow. I might even write about it as long as I’m sure no one will ever read it but D-from-A.