31 March 2011

Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass: This is a one joke movie. . .but it’s a pretty good joke. An eleven-old-girl (played by a kid named Chloe Grace Moretz, in the best tween girl performance since Natalie Portman in The Professional) is a potty-mouthed, conscienceless killing machine Super Hero-ette named Hit Girl who, costumed in plaid schoolgirl skirt with pink utility belt, black mask and purple wig, mows down (in hyper-speed) rooms full of colored drug dealers and mafiosos to a blaring Banana Splits soundtrack. The story of how this kid became Hit Girl (and all the rest of the film’s Super Hero-cum-teen angst back story, which encompasses more than a few uninteresting characters), isn’t worth bothering with. Asian filmmakers wouldn’t even have tried to construct a story line, they would have just shot 90 minutes of school girl mayhem, flavored with a more potent blend of the pedophilia that is clumsily half-hinted at here. Excepting the presence of Nicolas Cage, who gives a retro-Cage quirky performance as Hit Girl’s Adam West-imitating faux-Batman Big Daddy dad (which I guess elevates this movie to one-and-a-half joke status), the movie becomes an exercise in tedium whenever Hit Girl makes an exit. In fact, I almost gave up on this thing as just another overdone post-modern comic book movie. . .at least 40 minutes must have passed before Hit Girl made her genuinely spectacular entrance, and I was just about to hit the eject button on the dvd, but then, well, Hit Girl happened (see the crappy video copy below), and I stayed for the rest. . .though drumming my fingers through all the non-Hit Girl and Big Daddy scenes. Is there enough here to keep most mature viewers *engaged?* Probably not. But then I’m the type who gets all mushy for the expressionistic family sentimentality that sustains the Hit Girl/Big Daddy relationship (nicely contrasted with the sterile relations between Kick-Ass, the movie’s teen boy Super Hero, and his parents), and the Big-Daddy-burning-to-death scene nearly moved me to tears. . .so, you have to be sick-and-tired of what passes for AmerICKan screen realism (see the lifeless-but-critically-lauded Winter’s Bone, for example, with features the soul-less family love which the critics must experience in *real life*--the love which is posed) to enjoy this kind of thing. Let’s just hope Kick-Ass II resurrects Big Daddy and sends all of Kick-Ass I’s tiresome teen angst straight to Hell.

[I would be remiss, as they say, if I did not mention the disturbing *The Passion of the Hit Girl* scene near the movie’s end, wherein our little hero-ette becomes a mafia punching bag. In a movie full of obvious comic book violence, this short scene degenerates into something ugly. . .it’s a nasty little scar on an otherwise happy bit of nonsense.]

23 March 2011

Do Ye Even So To Them

It turned out the night I learned my brother died, in fact, at almost exactly the same time I learned my brother died, the two-year-old son of a Sergeant who works at the very same jail I am employed at, in fact, a Sergeant who had been my supervisor when I worked on the day shift, the two-year-old son of this Sergeant was drowning in a bathtub. The child died. The details of the terrible event are unknown, although from jail gossip it is considered certain no *foul play* is (or was) suspected.

It is a terrible event. A parent’s *worst nightmare,* as is said. Upon hearing the news, I had tremendous, and, I believe, genuine sympathy for the Sergeant. I prayed for the Sergeant and his family (a wife and three other children). Yet as I felt this sympathy, which I believed to be genuine, and as I prayed for this Sergeant and his family, I was always aware I had never really liked this Sergeant. I had found him to be an overly *fussy* supervisor--a little too eager to run a *tight ship,* in, I suspected, an attempt to gain favor from his supervisor, a deranged Lieutenant who *lives in a jail of his own.*

An example of this Sergeant’s fussiness: as part of my jail clerk’s duties, I have to write tickets to released inmates who cannot pay their twelve dollar jail booking fee. I would fill out the ticket completely and accurately, yet this Sergeant would complain my handwriting could be neater. Consider the work environment: telephones are ringing off the hook, jail gate intercoms are buzzing constantly, you have a belligerent perpetrator of domestic violence in your face unhappy at the dumb booking questions you must ask (“do you believe that other people know your thoughts and can read your mind?), you have a backlog of other new arrests waiting to be booked, releasable inmates are whining “what’s taking so long?”, arrogant lawyers are demanding their inmate clients be brought down for interviews, and here is this Sergeant interrupting the barely functioning process to nitpick about handwriting. Go back into your fucking office and stop bothering me--those were my near-daily sentiments concerning this Sergeant.

And as each day passes, I have less sympathy for this Sergeant, and he is no longer named in my prayers.

God, of course, knew my true heart at the first moment I heard of this Sergeant’s tragedy. God knew those first moments of sympathy, the first prayer, when I had heard the awful news, those first *seeds* of sympathy and prayer, were akin to the seeds from our Lord’s famous parable: the seeds which fell upon the stony places, where they had not much earth, and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth, and when the sun was up, the seeds were scorched, and because they had no root, they withered away.

My sympathy and my prayers for this Sergeant had no root, and they withered away.

The human soul, at the least, my human soul, can be a stony place. . .

What a horrible *thing*--to have your child drown in a bathtub! Besides the cruel death itself, impossible enough to deal with, imagine all the recriminations (whether voiced or not), the guilt, the never-ending *if only. . .* A remaining lifetime shadowed by a grievous death.

I suppose in a week or so this Sergeant will return to work. Return to work with all the so-called *emotional baggage* of a truly dreadful death of a child. Returning to work would be bad enough in an ordinary job--but to return to work in a JAIL? Which is, after all, nothing more than BABY-SITTING society’s worst children. This Sergeant now has to baby-sit our worst brats, those of us who haven’t grown up enough to sufficiently conceal our wickedness. JAIL is a depressing place to work--24 hour DAYCARE for madmen, drunks, deviates, the violent and the rapacious. While this Sergeant considers the atrocious fate of his small son, he must listen to grown men throwing temper tantrums over missed sack lunches and being allowed only one free phone call. . .

To be depressed and then have to work in a depressing place--this thought revives my sympathy for this Sergeant. . .for a moment or two. . .then I remember his grating personality, his absurd obsession for a fastidious jail house.

I know I won’t be able to say a caring word to this Sergeant when he returns to work. I will not be able to manage anything more than a slight nod of the head and a “morning, Sergeant.”

The only self-justification I can manage for my hard heart is wrenched from our Lord’s command:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. . .

If I were in this Sergeant’s place, I would not want my sympathy. . .

16 March 2011

I Seen Some More Movies

Machete: Ugly, horribly pock-marked senior citizen hispanic character actor Danny Trejo makes out with a nude Lindsay Lohan in this fairly amusing splatter satire of border politics. Decapitations, mutilations and other assorted mayhems soak the viewer from first-to-last frame in this triple-cross tale of former Federale-turned-day-laborer Trejo’s battle against corrupt US and Mexican officials, and a Mexican drug lord (played by washed-up gringo martial arts *star* Steven Seagal in campy brown-face). This is 21st century Walking Tall, Billy Jack stuff, meaning it’s full of blood-drenched laughs and de rigueur gratuitous nudity. Curiously for a flick this over-the-top, the acting is surprisingly flat, and not up to the cynical black comic script--with the notable exception of Jeff Fahey, who shines as an ultra-Machiavelian political fixer. Robert De Niro looks hopelessly lost playing a trigger happy Texas state senator--the former Raging Bull looks like an old Jew codger stuck alone and forgotten in the corner at a tasteless, hyper-carnal bat mitzvah party. Despite the poor acting, Machete manages low entertainment, as it feeds our 21st century appetite for junk culture, demanding nothing more from the viewer than our need to have 105 minutes of our empty lives cinema-graphically killed. This isn’t much, but it’s infinitely preferable to:

A Single Man: Set in early ‘60s Los Angeles, a melancholy UK faggot pouts for 99 minutes over the death of his long-time *partner.* We watch as the glum middle-aged English English professor (played by a bland limey with the bland limey name Colin Firth, who apparently just won an Academy Award for a more recent bland performance) makes his meticulous and rather prissy plans for suicide--though the yawning viewer knows full well the homo will never do him the merciful courtesy of following through. . .and yes, in this film’s ped-ictable and queer-jerker script, the poof professor’s will to live is restored by the completely carnal charms of a pretty blonde boy student who is positively desperate to *explore* his inner Freddie Mercury. Whereas Machete was a tolerable waste of time and will be regarded as an honest cultural artifact of our age, A Single Man is nothing more than a dreary offering to the priests of the cult of gay who hood-twink our sexually indiscriminate century. [Julianne Moore, who has done nothing since flashing her red beard in Short Cuts, is absurdly cast and ridiculously plays a limey slut aching to be poked one last time by the ex-bi, now total boylover drama queen *hero* of this drop-the-soap opera.] [We must also note the crudely propagandistic use of supermodel Aline Weber, cast as a Bardot-like icon of female sexuality reduced to tag-along platonic friend of the pretty blonde boy student in this film’s *alternative* universe. The gorgeous Weber is presented as a near-deaf-and-dumb dummy in this bizarre movie, a mannekin lacking even the plastic charms of a sex doll, so lifeless the pretty blonde boy student prefers to commit sodomy with a cranky old poncy professor. This is cinema for abberants.] In contrast to the pseudo-suicidal tendencies of A Single Man, we have:

Bad Santa: Apparently released way back in 2003, I just now got around to watching this holiday masterpiece which features a remarkable performance from Billy Bob Thornton as a self-loathing low-life seasonal shopping mall Santa/safecracker. Thornton’s Santa is one of the great drunks of screen history--a bitter, gutter-dwelling loser painstakingly (and rendered in unrelenting black humor) engineering his own death. Empty save for psychic torment, our bad Santa staggers bleary-eyed and hungover through the holiday season, half-listening to the mass-marketed pleas of the freshly-scrubbed plastic children of mall AmerICKa whom he rushes off his lap as he bides his drunken time until he and his colored dwarf *elf* partner can rob the department store of just enough cash to keep him alcohol brain-dead until the next Christmas. The greatness of Bad Santa is the dark script stays true to its comically bleak soul while still serving up a small helping of holiday redemption. Bad Santa’s heart grows a size or two larger while he grudgingly aids the one person in the world possibly more tortured than himself: a pathetic, picked-on, semi-deranged fat boy living in near-total neglect. Bad Santa is a spot-on sardonic character study of the empty AmerICKan soul, and I can’t imagine many other actors capable of pulling off the performance Thornton gives. He never winks at the camera, as most *movie stars* would. He remains true to his character’s sick soul, and allows the black humor of the script to arise not from any *comic acting,* but from his deadpan delivery of his disturbingly funny clashes with the supposedly healthy AmerICKan mall automatons who cross his path (or his lap). After sixty years of ever-increasing AmerICKan degeneracy, Bad Santa emerges as the true heir to It’s A Wonderful Life.

09 March 2011

Mighty Men Which Were Of Old

I was living. Helping the kids with their homework. Dinner with the kids and the old lady. Cleaning up the dump. Getting the kids to bed. Listening to the old lady’s grievances. I was living. Doing the same things I do day after day after day. Living. This is life.

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. . .

I had about an hour to kill before I had to go to work. I look forward to that hour each day. Sixty minutes rest for my ears. I usually read for fifty minutes, then imagine a different life the last ten.

The phone rings. I hear the old lady clomping up the stairs. She always wears her shoes in the house. I hear her clomping all over the place all day long. It’s one of those *little things* that could drive a person insane. I hear the old lady clomping up the stairs after the phone rings. The call must be for me. I almost never get a phone call. No good can come of it. My sixty minutes of ear rest will be ruined.

“It’s for you,” the old lady says in a solemn tone, with a solemn look. Even she knows the call is no good.

I go downstairs.

“Hello,” I say into the telephone.

“Hello, sir. I’m Detective Ted Wilson of the Eau Claire, Wisconsin police department. . .”

Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Eight years ago I saw my brother off on a Greyhound bus headed for Eau Claire. He had two huge, almost-unliftable cartons of books, a backpack filled with a few items of clothing and some toiletries--everything he had to show for forty-five years on this earth. That, and a check for a hundred-fifty-thousand dollars, folded in half and stuffed in his shirt pocket. That was the last time I saw my brother. He had blown into town after I hadn’t seen him for twenty years. He stayed a few memorable weeks, then I drove him to the Greyhound bus station in Toledo, Ohio, the town we were born in, and there I said goodbye to him--the only white man in a waiting room full of broke-looking coloreds.

This Detective Ted Wilson says he is sorry to tell me they found my brother dead in his small Eau Claire, Wisconsin apartment. He made a point of saying it was a small apartment.

“Your brother appears to have lived a very spartan lifestyle,” the Detective says.

“Yes. But he always had a lot of books. Were there no books in his room?”

“No, I didn’t see anything like that,” the Detective answers.

Then the Detective, almost in a complaining fashion, tells me how difficult it was to locate me. There were no papers in my brother’s apartment identifying any friends or family.

“The other tenants said he was an extremely private person.”

“Yes.”

The Detective tells me he was only able to find me after doing a search on my brother in their *system,* and finding an old record indicating my brother was incarcerated in a County Jail for ninety days in 1980, and my name was the only name on his Visitor List. That’s how he *discovered* me, the Detective says. I almost tell the Detective I am now employed at that very same County Jail--but realize that would only needlessly prolong the uncomfortable conversation. Instead, I ask:

“What did he die of?”

“We don’t know. An autopsy will be performed tomorrow morning.”

I give the Detective the few basic bits of information he requests, and he tells me the Medical Examiner will call me tomorrow afternoon with the autopsy results. I hang up the telephone. Fifty-three minutes until I have to go to work.

“Why don’t you take the night off?” the old lady says.

I shake my head.

“Why?” she asks.

“There’s no point.”

“There’s no point?”

“The time for that has passed.”

“The time for that has passed?”

“That’s right. The time for that has passed. I should have taken the night off last night. Or a week ago. Or a month ago. The time for that has passed.”

The old lady looks like she doesn’t understand. It could be an act, but that is OK--it’s not her problem. My brother’s death is not her problem.

I go back upstairs. I pick up my book, Bernhard’s Gathering Evidence--really, I couldn’t have a much better selection, considering the circumstances.

My brother died at age fifty-three. He lived the last thirty years of his life as a *bum*--homeless for all of those years until he pocketed his check for 150k, then I assume he lived his last eight years as a comfortable bum in his small apartment in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I’ll have to visit that city, someday. . .

In reality, my brother was homeless all of his fifty-three years. . .

He never *held* a job. Never.

Now, for me, there is nobody left on this earth who knows what it was like. . .

At some point I will tell my kids, my two sons, the great value of brotherhood: that as long as both of them remain alive, they will each have one person who will know what it was like. . .the whole rest of the God damned world can contradict them, but as long as they both remain alive, they will each have one faithful witness.

My brother and I could not stand each other, until we were teenagers. But by then, we only had a few years left before he began his decades-long wandering. . .

He went from college town to college town, stealing books from the great university libraries of AmerICKa. As far as I know, he was only caught the one time, for which he did his ninety days at the County Jail, the very same County Jail at which I now *earn my livelihood.*

My brother needed those books for his independent studies. He was a true autodidact.

He was kicked out of school, permanently, in the tenth grade.

[He was then shipped off to the Jobs Corp in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was dismissed after two or three months as a result of a *racial altercation.* When no one in the family would take him in, he was forced to join the AmerICKan Navy at age seventeen. Imagine! Within a few weeks I received from my brother in the mail a photograph of himself in his Navy costume. This remains the only photo I have of my brother. If one did not know my brother, and saw only the front picture side of the photograph, one would likely conceive a completely FALSE IMPRESSION of my brother. But upon turning the photograph over, and reading my brother’s brief note, one would begin to have a clearer understanding, as he printed in his customary neat block letters: THIS IS MORE RETARDED THAN JOBS CORP. SEE YOU SOON. He was given a General Discharge and back in *civilian life* before his nineteenth birthday.]

He would become fixated on certain semi-arcane fields of knowledge, and study them like a mad scholastic monk for six months or year. Then a new avenue of inquiry would take root in his mind, and a whole new set of books would have to be stolen. . .

Thirty years ago my brother was investigating the Book of Revelation, producing indecipherable charts plotting the End.

Eight years ago, he was in the middle of a dual study of the theory of economic inflation and the validity of mental illness. As I recall, he was reading Schumpeter and Szasz simultaneously, and saw some esoteric link between the two. He had come to Ann Arbor to pilfer a book from the University of Michigan library, and I happened across him one spring day on the University Diag. As I mentioned earlier, he left town with a check for 150k in his shirt pocket, and the knowledge he could now purchase a computer and find or buy almost any book he needed on the internet. His criminal career hop-scotching across AmerICKa’s college campuses came to an end, and he apparently stayed put in Eau Claire, Wisconsin for the last law-abiding eight years of his life.

[Now that I think of it, the reason Detective Ted Wilson may not have seen any books in my brother’s room is because my brother may have went over to the *Kindle*. . .]

I have hated them that regard lying vanities. . .

My brother had no patience, no tolerance, no connection to other people or their institutions or groups.

He suspected everybody of dishonesty and ill intentions. . .

Over the long, long years, with various girlfriends, wives, in-laws, etc., in trying to explain my brother’s absence, none could ever understand when I told them, given my brother’s genesis, it was impossible for him to *fit in.*

“But you have always managed,” they would all essentially reply.

And that would be the end of the conversation, for it would be pointless for me to continue.

To the others in my life, even though many of them were far more *successful,* my being able to maintain a family and scrape by for the last twenty-five years paycheck-to-paycheck *holding* a series of ever-more-increasingly-ridiculous jobs, was *proof* of having the ability to *fit in.* And so, they reasoned, my brother also should have been equipped with the ability to *fit in.*

Their error has always been the failure to see I am living an artificial existence. . .

To them, this *fitting in,* this everyday life of work, family, country, is genuine existence.

My brother instinctively rejected it, as a fish would instinctively reject the moon. . .

It is good for me, it is psychologically healthy for me, to work at the jail on the night of my brother’s death. The environment *in custody* helps clarify *things.*

My brother, in contrast to the vast majority of the sad-sacks I book in, ended up in jail, once, long ago, briefly, because of a QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE. He wanted certain texts at his disposal for his studies. He could not conform to, nor accept, the University library’s hours of operation. He could not *fit in*--nor did he ever desire to *fit in.* He rejected the *life* of the masses as artificial, and sought, through his studies, to expose this *life’s* END and its MENDACITY. Thus, my brother was LARGER than *life.*

[I must imagine the reaction of the little persons who dwelled in the same building as my brother, when my brother, a GIANT of this century and the last century, died in their midst. They must have commented on this wise: “What’s going on?” “I think the bum in number three died.” “Oh.” And then they quickly return to their small apartments, no doubt to blaring televisions--never aware a GIANT had roamed amongst them. This is the way of the world.]

In contrast, the little persons I book into jail desperately desire to *fit in.* They believe the artificial life of the masses is genuine life--but they fail miserably at it. All the beasts that come in on Domestic Assault charges--they want a *family.* Yet all their effort produces is antagonism--and the inevitable result is violence.

Nearly all crimes fit the pattern: the crime is the inevitable result of the little person’s failure to *fit in* the artificial life of the masses he/she desperately desires to imitate.

It is true over the course of the long, hard fifty-three years, my brother’s mind deteriorated into paranoia--yet he stayed true to his original and uncorrupted view that what we call *living* is artificial. Thus I believe, his mind now healed by our Lord Jesus Christ, my brother must smile from Heaven at the ironic sight of his brother: the counterfeiter passing as jailer.

Tomorrow will be the same. Helping the kids with their homework. Dinner with the kids and the old lady. Cleaning up the dump. Getting the kids to bed. Listening to the old lady’s grievances. Living. Yes, the time has passed. I should have taken a night off a month ago. Now there is no one left who knows what it was like. . .