August 8, 2005 - August 1, 2005
Saturday, August 06, 2005
. If there's a single seminal moment for the post-war baby
boom that produced the Not-So-Greatest-Generation
it's August 6th, 1945, when the United States unveiled its war-ending
technology in Hiroshima, Japan.
The history may not be so important anymore, because nobody cares about
history since the baby boomers reduced it to a pulpy list of crimes
against political correctness. What is
important is what happens now that the most narcissistic and
self-indulgent generation in American history embarks on the great
adventure of aging. It's not going to be pretty. The same folks who
demanded that the world be remade in their image when they got to
college in the '60s will insist -- just as they have in every other
tedious phase and fad of the past 40 years -- that meeting their needs
is all that matters. Look for the country to be transformed into some
kind of senior citizen's amusement park, a 50 state implementation of
St. Petersburg, Florida, with a wheelchair ramp at every strip club and
free bus transportation to every reunion of septuagenarian Deadheads.
As for the rest of you, get ready to pay some real
taxes in years to come. The
baby boomers' appetite for drugs has always been legendary, and they're
going to need pills for blood pressure, and body aches, and the pain of
post-cosmetic surgery, and erections, and depression, and all the new
syndromes that will be invented by a population of sissies who are
growing old without ever having grown up. And they're going to want it
all for free.
This is also a special day for the brat kids the baby boomers brought
into being without actually raising them. The long cushy ride is over
as of now. Your job is to drop whatever you're doing and
make sure that mom and dad get the attention they've always
always wanted and just can't get anymore from shopping, and showing
off, and chasing the coolest new trends. They won't have the energy for
all that. So they'll sit there, and complain, and demand something,
anything, from you to divert them one more time from the emptiness
But if you want, you can pretend that all this isn't happening, because
as they enter their sixties and their seventies, the cleverest of the
boomers will be sitting down at their computers to prove they weren't
really the worst generation, but the best, because it's so much easier
to make it up after the fact than live it for real. Yes, there's an
orgy of self-congratulation to come, and you'll all have the
unforgettable experience of paying through the nose for the final round
of boomer instant gratification while increasingly ancient anchormen
and other doddering celebrities exalt the beauty of oldness and demand
the respect for elders they scorned throughout their lives.
Has everybody caught the mood? I hope so, because now it's time for all
of us to lift our voices in song. Are you ready?
"Happy birthday to you... Happy birthday to you..."
Where is everybody? Why aren't you singing?
You're going to have to do better than that. You really are.
UPDATE: Thanks to Mr. Daniel Ruben for joining in the celebration-- welcome to
blinq. visitors. Feel free to take a look around.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
. After all the bluster and hype about Over There
, it's time to focus
on what really is the best series on television, a show that could
easily be named Over Here
Denis Leary's Rescue Me
probably the finest work yet produced for the small screen. The credit
belongs to Leary because he writes, produces, and stars in the show and
does all three jobs with brilliance and subtlety. The view he gives us
of New York firefighters is comical, pitiless, scathing, and yet -- to
use a word much abused
in recent times -- realistic. In the landscape of Leary's creation,
firefighters are dumb as rocks, juvenile in their relations with women,
borderline sociopathic in their personal lives, and ridiculous when
they attempt to explain their stupid behaviors to civilians. They are
also the men who charge into burning buildings to save anyone and
everyone inside. Despite a long string of attempts by Martin Scorsese
and HBO, the holy grail of a riveting story based on asshole characters
had seemed unattainable to me. Somehow, Leary seems to achieve
this impossible goal with ease. He's not a stand-up comic who does
other things. He's a master.
Tommy Gavin, the character Leary plays in Rescue Me,
is selfish, choleric,
violent, abusive to women, friends, and family, almost incapable of
self control in any setting, and -- on top of this, not because of this
-- irretrievably damaged by the events of 9/ll, in which he lost
firefighter family and friends in large numbers. I didn't see the first
season, but it hardly matters. What he succeeds in showing us is that
there are men for whom every minute not spent in the life-and-death
situations they were born to face is simply killing time, including
marriage, fatherhood, and everything else the rest of us consider all
The miracle of Rescue Me
that Leary's writing and acting seduce us into accepting the appalling
personal frailties of firefighters and even understanding them. He
doesn't use music to gloss over the rough spots or to highlight the
heroism. He uses humor, an intuitive razorlike skill with dialogue and
delivery, and patience -- the willingness to let the pathos or
absurdity of any situation make itself felt over time rather than under
trick lighting or ham-handed theatrics. To find a counterpart to the
writing in these scripts, one must look all the way back to Evelyn
Waugh, who possessed the sublime nastiness to inform us of the death of
Lord Tangent (son of Lady Circumference) in a dependent clause dozens
of pages after the glancing shot of a starter's pistol dealt him a
mortal blow. That's the esthetic at work here. Big events can be
trivial, and trivial events enormous. Gavin's jilted girlfriend
confronts him in front of the firehouse and threatens to scream in
order to embarrass him. He tells her to go ahead. She lets loose like
the heroine of a horror movie and -- eventually -- firefighters come
outside, greet her merrily, and disappear inside. None of them ask
Tommy for an explanation afterwards. Emotional fireworks are routine
and unimportant here. But a firefighter who overhears his son having
gay sex is stunned into speechless fury -- not by the sex, but by the
discovery that his son is not, as he had been promised, the "man" of
the couple. In Rescue Me,
depends on the perspective of the lunkhead characters, who talk with
one another in stark but stupid terms about even the most intimate and
embarrassing incidents in their lives.
A mentally challenged firefighter develops a morbid fear that his penis
is somehow deadly after two successive girlfriends die. His supervisor
in counseling him begins by remarking that the firefighter has a small
sliver of brain matter floating around somewhere in his skull and hopes
the observation doesn't give offense. "No offense taken," responds the
young man, without the least change of expression. He is still waiting
for advice, which comes quickly. The problem, the supervisor tells him,
is his dating pool, which should be drained dry, filled in, and paved
over with asphalt.
"Then there's nothing the matter with my cock?"
"No. Get back out there."
The next step is absolutely typical of Rescue Me
, which includes in its
regular cast a hallucinated Jesus who haunts Leary's character but is
refreshingly tongue-tied about the meaning of life's constant
tragedies. Jesus torments Leary for a buffoonish performance at an AA
meeting, but there's nobody on hand to chastise the dumb firefighter
when he accompanies a Vicodin-addicted colleague to a Narcotics
Anonymous meeting and discovers that it's an "ocean of pussy," a
panoply of ex-models, hookers, and party girls, all vulnerable to the
charms of a firefighter willing to make up stories about a
crack-addicted past. Which he immediately proceeds to do.
In fact, every single kind of bad and unfair treatment of women is on
constant display in Rescue Me
and the firefighters' understanding of this unending quest in their
lives never rises above the level of eighth grade boys. But then Tommy
Gavin gives mouth to mouth to a little boy who has stopped breathing
after receiving third degree burns to his face, and he registers no
emotion when another firefighter tells him the boy's lips are still
glued to his own. The show then resists the temptation to play for
sympathy when Gavin goes to the hospital to sit by the critically
burned boy's bed. Instead, when the mother leaves for a moment, Jesus
appears in her chair, ducks the question about what such tragedies
mean, and offers to "put in a word" for the boy's life if Gavin will
reconsider his dismissal of God.
In response to the proposition, Gavin says, "I want full use of the
Nothing is sacred in Rescue Me
Not even the PC standards of our day. A supervisor berates a female
probationer who disregarded orders at a fire by calling her a "stupid
twat." Predictably, she threatens legal action when he refuses to
apologize. Then she is made to realize that namecalling is a part
of the life of a firefighter, and the offender makes everyone pay for
his crime by refusing to lie about what he said. All the firefighters,
including the "victimized" woman, are sentenced to sensitivity
That's how the show strikes me overall -- as a kind of sensitivity
training about a kind of man who has become unfashionable and even
despised, despite the fact that we need and depend upon him. He's rude,
crude, often drunk, frequently obtuse, coarse in even the most
rudimentary social occasions, but when the terrible thing happens, he's
the one who will disregard the danger and battle his way into further
danger to pull our sorry asses out of the fire.
I'm getting the lesson because it's being delivered with such flawless
timing and unflinching honesty. I urge all of you to enroll for the
rest of the course, no matter how long it lasts.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
The Serial Action Drama!
Action, action, action.
Just moments after the latest Air America scandal
Steven Botchco Productions is beginning production of the film epic
liberals have been waiting for. At last, the true story of heroic
resistance against the evil fascists who rule America is being told
with the full power of Hollywood stars and special effects. As
principled as the West Wing
, as exciting as Con Air
, and as up-to-the
minute as Over There
, Air America the Serial
you and amaze you. The list of stars is as long as your arm -- Nicholas
Cage, George Clooney, Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Randi Rhodes,
Michael Moore, Ann
Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Charlton Heston, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity,
and many many more.
But the best news of all is that InstaPunk readers won't even have to
wait for the TV debut. We have the storyboards (just as we did with Valerie Flame, DC
), and we're publishing the first episode HERE
Enjoy. And stay tuned.
Mr. Austin Bay has new information about Air America's, er, financing
problems. You can catch up on that here
Besides starring in our dramatic version of the story, Michelle Malkin
is taking the lead in pursuing the facts of Air America's funding
Over There -- Part
Yesterday, I reported
watching the first episode of Over There and deferred to a milblogger
whose analysis I respected. Today, Glenn Reynolds
links to the Opinionated
, who is inclined to defend
the show. Under the heading "the Soldiers Are Wrong," he defends the
program as an example of a venerable genre:
In WWII, Frank Capra refined the war
picture genre to a high degree. A war picture needs certain elements to
be true to the genre:
Only a few characters. The audience has
to bond with the characters so having more then 4-5 characters
diminishes that bond. In military terms, this means a platoon size is
ideal. Naturally, this doesn't always make sense in reality. Why was a
captain commanding a platoon in Saving Private Ryan?
Those few characters have to in aggregate represent all of America. So
there will be a College Guy, an ethnic, (these days) a woman, a WASP,
etc. This is one of the most Capraesqe parts of the genre; Capra
specifically intended his films to be propaganda; the audience had to
feel the platoon represented a representative slice of America.
Sergeants are tough bastards. Officers (especially lieutenants) are
idiots. This isn't strictly necessary, but comes from two great truths:
Americans hate authority, and sergeants have won more battles for
America then any other type of soldier.
So does Over There have those elements? Of course it does. As a TV
program, viewers have to be able to tune into any of these early shows
and “get it” immediately. So the characters are going to be
stereotypical and shallow at first.
Are the tactics vastly oversimplified? Of course. Complicated tactics
won't be shown unless they have dramatic purpose. Similarly, on CSI,
they can get DNA tests done in a day, where in real life they take 2
So give the show a break guys. I think that while you'll always have
problems with the technical accuracy, I think that Over There is going
to turn out to be great TV.
This time I can base my points on a knowledge of the movies, not war.
I disagree with Opinionated's argument. Note this description, via NPR
of the show's stated purpose:
The new, realist TV drama Over There focuses
on a unit of U.S. soldiers and their lives on the ground in Iraq....
For two years, American TV viewers have watched the real-life drama of
the war in Iraq unfold on the evening news. On Wednesday night, a
fictional version will debut on cable channel FX...
It's the first series based on a war
in progress and is the latest from Emmy-winning TV producer
Bochco's credits include NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues. Like much of
his earlier work, Over There provides a gritty, emotional glimpse into the
lives of its characters.
More is being promised here than a genre piece. In dramatic terms,
"genre" and "realist" tend to be opposites rather than complements. Most
of old Hollywood's productions were genre pieces, to the extent that those
which were not tended to be lumped into the minority category "film
noir." Westerns, musicals, sci fi adventures, and romances --as well as
a great many war movies --were meant to entertain and captivate rather
than educate. The exceptions among war movies of the WWII period were
few and controversial. "The Best Years of Our Lives," for example,
was deemed highly political and even subversive in some quarters. That's what realism can do to you in the film business.
Moreover, the word "realist" is not to be taken lightly in the context
of an ongoing
true that Capra began his war movie work during World War II, but I
doubt very much that his purpose was to provide a "realistic" or
"gritty emotional glimpse" of his characters. He was helping to sell a
particular point of view on the war, which in his case happened to be
that the war had to be fought and won. I believe many engaged in like
endeavors at the time were not even squeamish about using the term
'propaganda.' Realism was not on the agenda for two reasons: 1) there
was no precedent for filmed depictions of the true violence of war
(This was more the province of the Russians, but even Alexander Nevsky
pales beside Braveheart.) 2) The truly unbelievable savagery of the
combat at Normandy, Iwo Jima, etc, would have undermined the successful
sale of the pro-war message.
So what is it that Opinionated Bastard is telling us? That formulaic
plots and characters festooned with quite realistic violence enacted in
overly simplified combat situations can nevertheless be great TV. Great
as entertainment perhaps, but certainly not much more emotionally valid
than a 40s tearjerker starring Bette Davis. Unless we can be very very
sure about the filmmakers' underlying purpose -- because only his
integrity can protect us from the manipulations made possible by easy
shortcuts like the use pf 40s style "Brooklyn bomber crews" or 60s
style "misfit Vietnam squads." We have to have some way of knowing that
he has NOT picked out the emotion he wants to sell in advance and
proceeded to fake his way to a cheap result.
When I read the catalog of misrepresentation and fakery presented by Faces from
, I can't help suspecting that Bochco may have as
simplistic an agenda for his cheap tricks as Frank Capra did. It's not
much of a leap from there to suspect that what Bochco is using his
conventions for is to convince Americans that this war -- like just
about every other war in the left's opinion -- is too costly and morally ambiguous to
"waste" any more lives on.
I grant that not employing genre techniques might prove exceptionally
challenging and even daunting. But the word "great" is usually reserved
for rising to just such challenges.
The Opinionated one is fully entitled to his opinion. But I thought he
deserved some responsive feedback.