Friday, December 21, 2012

And the bomb drops down

Some thoughts on surviving the Apocalypse:

I'm not going to.

This is a rough thing for anyone who has grown up as steeped in pulp fiction -- superhero comics, Doc Savage novels, the science fiction of Robert A. Heinlein and Dean Ing and all those other good After The Bomb shock jocks -- to admit to. But it's the simple truth.

You see those people on THE WALKING DEAD? Yes, every single one of them except Darryl is a disfunctional asshole I'd walk a mile to avoid (well, I liked Dale, too, but he's gone now). But here's what they aren't -- they aren't fat, like me. They aren't legally blind, like I am without heavy duty corrective lenses. They aren't dependent on medication, like I am on allergy meds and Prilosec. And, apparently, they don't fly into a panic and run screaming into a tree or a wall or an abandoned vehicle, like I would if a horde of slavering Undead, or even one, came shambling at me out of the trees.

Also unlike me, they have useful, practical skills. They can operate, maintain, and repair complex machinery, like motor vehicles, generators, and firearms. They can shoot straight, move quickly and quietly, think quickly, and keep their heads when all around them are flipping their shit. None of this remotely describes me.

I am a child of civilization. I am a dreamy, imaginative sort. I do not like snakes or rats or bugs or wearing wet clothes or being dirty or the sight of blood (especially my own). I am a picky eater. I enjoy reading and watching movies and eating pizza and cuddling with my wife and occasionally my youngest daughter, who has not yet outgrown the occasional snuggle with her folks. I love hot showers, and central heating/AC, and soft places to sit and lie down and sleep, and blankets, and doors that lock.

I'm not going to survive the Apocalypse. I'm just not. And here's a news flash:

You're probably not either.

I don't care how many guns you stockpile, I don't care how much canned food and bottled water you have in your basement, I don't care how carefully you have reinforced all your locks and windows and checked all the sightlines from your front and back porches. I don't care. You, also, are a child of civilization. You may have wonderful vision (although few of us do), you may be flat stomached and wiry as hell, you may not get sinus miseries in the spring and the fall and the summer and any time except the dead of winter, you may not be diabetic or have high blood pressure or bad acid reflux or any of the many, many other chronic conditions we take effective medications for now.

Nonetheless, you are a child of civilization, and you are not prepared for the Apocalypse, no matter how much you kid yourself you are. You are not ready to kill. You are not ready to fight tooth and nail. Youa re not ready to make tough decisions.

You know how I know this?

Because if I know you, you are a nice person, and nice people are not going to prosper after the Apocalypse. Only really violent amoral sociopaths are going to do well after the Apocalypse. You know. Uncivilized sorts.

I'm not going to survive the Apocalypse.

That's okay. I don't want to.  Life in the ruins of Western Civilization will be a waking screaming horror for someone like me, and, I suspect, someone like you... but more important, I don't think the Apocalypse is going to happen.

Why not?

I'm a child of civilization... and I have faith in its inherent resilience.

But if I'm wrong, I won't be for very long.

Monday, December 10, 2012

George Bailey Lassoes Heartbreak

Watching IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE every year has always been a Christmas tradition for me, and it's one my wife enjoys, too. So we watched it again last night.

I cannot count the number of times I've seen this movie. We used to book it every year when I was on the campus Cinema Board, so I probably saw it five times while I was going to college actually projected on a movie screen in a theater, and, of course, I've no doubt seen it at least another fifteen times on videotape and DVD.

As with that other great classic movie of its era, CASABLANCA, the appeal of this film is entirely emotional... there is simply no internal logic to the movie at all.

Just as one random example... one of the earliest scenes in the film shows George Bailey at the age of 11, saving his obviously much younger brother Harry's life when Harry falls into an icy creek while sledding. A few weeks later, George heads in to work at Gower's drugstore and we see Mary and Violet waiting for him at the counter. George has been clearly identified by heavenly authority as being 11 at this point in the narrative, and both Violent and Mary seem to be pretty much the same age, while Harry was obviously much younger... nearly a toddler, which would make since, as Harry is supposed to be around 4 years younger than George, which would make him 7 when he nearly drowns. However, when the narrative flashes forward to Harry's high school graduation, we find out that Mary is actually the same age as Harry -- 18. We know brother George is 4 years older than Harry and, in fact, George's contemporary, that jack ass Sam Wainwright, announces loudly that he has just graduated from college in that same scene. So, apparently, Mary was 7 years old when she declared in George's deaf ear that "George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die". Which simply makes no logical sense at all.

Yet the movie is so overwhelmingly powerful on an emotional level that stuff like this just doesn't matter, and, in fact, I had to watch it around thirty times before I realized it. It wasn't until around my 12th viewing that I realized that the guy who eggs Mary's obnoxious date at the dance on into opening up the floor and dumping George and Mary into the hidden swimming pool is Mary's older brother Marty... who is, clearly, some kind of manic depressive psychotic, as he has, just prior to this, begged George to dance with his sister, as a special favor to her ("you'll give her the thrill of her life"). Apparently, Good Marty wants to make his sister and his friend happy, but when Bad Marty sees them having a wonderful time, he thinks "That tramp! I'll show HER!" What a nut job!

Anyway, this time around, I noticed something else for the first time. You know that really corny sequence where George and Mary are walking around in the borrowed clothes after the swimming pool mishap, and George throws a rock at the old Granville House, and Mary asks him what he wished for, and George says "Oh, not just one wish, Mary, but a whole hatful!" and proceeds to detail how he's going to 'shake the dust of Bedford Falls off of his shoes and SEE THE WORLD!'

And Mary gets this peculiar look on her face and starts looking around for a rock to throw so she can make a wish, too.

I realized as I watched that this time that what Mary is thinking at that moment is:

"And now... I must crush his dreams... forever!"

And she does, too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The black rabbit

You know, I'm a negative bastard... or so it would seem from what I post on the internet. I nit pick, I criticize, I bitch and moan endlessly about all sorts of shit that displeases, annoys, or offends me, and there is indeed all sorts of shit that rises to that apparently very low standard.

I should be more cheerful. I should. I have a wonderful wife and tremendously excellent daughters and good friends many of which I do not see anywhere near enough (like Mark Gibson and his inestimable family, who are so tremendous as to be nearly as tremendous as my family) and I've got a job which provides excellent benefits and the opportunity to be screamed at thirty or forty times a day by strangers for shit that isn't my fault and that certainly reasonable enlightened adults wouldn't scream at anyone about.

I should be more upbeat.

But then I walk into the break room to get some lunch and nobody else is in there but FAMILY FUED is blathering from the TV so I grab the remote and switch it to something else, anything else, please, God, I'll take the fucking Kardashians for the few minutes I'll be in here over the goddam wretched appalling excrement-encrusted consensus celebrating conformity rewarding FAMILY FEUD... and I haven't made it to the vending machines which are thirty feet away before someone else has come into the room, shrieked in horror upon discovering that the TV is not tuned to FAMILY FEUD, and hurled their bodies across the room towards the remote, gibbering in dismay that they may have to spend as much as four seconds of their break or lunch period without the slick urbane inanities of Steve Harvey or the emotionally retarded dimwittedly risque topics he so smoothly exploits each and every weekday.

Has there ever been an episode of this show where at least one contestant did not smugly preen and posture about their involvement with their local church? Has there ever been an episode where some homely woman did not squeal in glee when her homelier mate or disfunctional family member managed to match "my wife's butt" with a topic like "things a man would like to eat off" as if this were the very apex of drollery and finely pointed wit in human experience? Has there ever been an episode where the two teams of contestants did not all appear to be bovinely unconcerned with anything beyond how much money they could make wringing their barely functional brain cells for the most obvious semantic and thematic linkages conceivable and then announcing them in the most unctious, smarmy manner they could manage?

What the fuck is wrong with the culture I inhabit, that we enshrine this show as an object of daily worship, and yet not one American high school graduate in ten can even formulate a coherent written sentence any more... much less an original thought?