Tuesday, February 19, 2008

There Will Be More Than Blood

I watched 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days last night on IFC On Demand. Even with all the accolades it's received, I was a little reluctant to see it. The story of two young women in Romania during the late 80s trying to obtain an illegal abortion for one of them didn't strike me as something I really wanted to watch. It wasn't as disturbing as I feared, but it certainly wasn't without its disturbing moments either. Two scenes in particular were as tense and unsettling as any scenes I've ever seen in a movie. And the director should be given credit for not taking a stand one way or the other in the debate on abortion. He lets the drama play out with all its tragic consequences and leaves it to viewers to make up their own minds. Recommended, but obviously not for those who might be disturbed by the subject matter.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A sick man's dreams

Now that I've become one of those middle-aged guys who can't make it through the night without a piss break, my dreams are often broken into double features (b. p. b. and a. p. b.). Last night's was a doozy. The first feature included one character after another making lengthy speeches about such things as "The World Food Bank." It was one of those dreams so infuriatingly boring that I'm convinced my waking up was a physiological response to the mental tedium. Upon awakening, I knew exactly what had inspired the dream. Before going to sleep I had listened to an audience recording of a Bruce Springsteen show from his last tour and had become irritated with the loudmouth fans who insisted on talking through most of the songs. Also, it occurred to me that Bruce's political speech before one of his songs was a little condescending (of course he's entitled to his views, but his having to spell things out for his audience with a speech seemed a bit much. Are we too stupid to interpret the songs for ourselves?). Clearly, these minor irritations played a part in the overly chatty and tiresome nature of the dream.

The second feature was a whole other story.

Earlier in the evening I had been thinking about a boy, a friend from my neighborhood when I was 8 years old, who was hit by a car while riding his bicycle, lingered in a coma for several years, and then died. I hadn't thought of him in quite a while and I'm still not sure what made me think of him last night. During the years that he was in a coma, volunteers from the neighborhood had pitched in to help the family with his therapy. My mother asked me to attend one of these sessions with her (it was probably at least a year after the accident). I only went with her once, but for obvious reasons there were certain things about the visit that I have never forgotten. I can still remember the gray light that suffused every room in the house and the hushed voices that the adults spoke in as we were led upstairs to Joseph's bedroom. Joseph, in pajamas, lay in what appeared to me at the time to be an oversized crib (really a hospital bed with sides that could be raised or lowered so he wouldn't fall out). We were encouraged to talk to him to keep his senses stimulated while we raised and lowered his arms and legs and rolled him from side to side on the bed. I remember my mother talking to him continually, but I don't remember saying anything myself (I was probably too mortified by Joseph's physical appearance; he was very thin and he wore a pained and baffled expression on his face as we manipulated his limbs). Naturally, I couldn't wait to get out of there and probably said as much to my mother after we left (this was most likely the reason I never returned). Tied to these memories is the memory of the look on the face of the classmate whose father's car had struck Joseph when another classmate taunted him about it. I don't think I was aware of that fact until that moment and I'll never forget the pained and baffled expression on that boy's face either. Because these boys had to endure these painful experiences at such an early age, they have been forever linked in my mind.

Perhaps because my memory of Joseph's emaciated body reminded me of the concentration camp victims I had seen in films about the Holocaust, the second dream had a Nazi theme. I was in a small farmhouse with stacks of dead Nazi corpses in a bin in the backyard. I had been instructed to start digging graves on the side of the house. As I began to furiously dig several graves at once, a family of corpses rose up from the pile. They weren't dead yet even though their skulls were beginning to poke through their faces! I say a "family" because it was obvious the animated corpses were a man and a woman and two kids. They began to lay down in the barely dug graves. Shocked, I asked them what they were doing. The father spoke for them all, "Why look to the future when the end is so near?"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Huckabee and Rommy

On Tuesday nights, after The Best Show on WFMU, I take a local bus home through Jersey City. Since it leaves at 11:30 pm, it's usually not that crowded. Often, I am the only white person on the bus. Last night a couple of non-regulars got on without the proper change for the fare. A call was made for five singles, and even though I knew I didn't have it, I made the effort of looking in my wallet just to show them I wasn't blowing off their plea. No one on the bus had five singles. I guess this didn't sit right with one of them because the next thing I know he's shouting something in my direction. I had already resumed reading my book by this time and was trying to ignore the increasingly persistent outbursts from the front of the bus. As it continued, I finally realized what was being said: "Huckabee! Huckabee!" When I looked up, I noticed that another white guy dressed in business attire was sitting directly in front of me (I recognized him as a fellow commuter from Bayonne). I looked at the guy shouting "Huckabee!", but all I got back was the dead-eye stare of the imbecilic or drug addled (he didn't appear drunk to me). It was hard to tell who exactly he was addressing. Now that he had my attention, he began to vary his routine: "Huckabee!" "Rommy!" "Huckabee!" "Rommy!". Then it dawned on me. Because we were both white and didn't look like bums, we must be rich Republicans. Yeah, that makes sense. And since we were rich white people, it goes without saying that we should have been carrying a huge wad of cash on us and were holding out on him and his buddy. I continued giving him my best "What the fuck is wrong with you? Don't you know how to act in public?" look (I've perfected it over the years), but it didn't have much of an effect. Some sort of verbal response seemed required to get him to stop shouting "Huckabee!" and "Rommy!", so I said I had three singles. His buddy almost went for this, but by this time we had reached their destination and the bus driver, eager to diffuse the situation, quickly waved them off the bus without getting their fare. By the creaky way he disembarked (he moved like an old man even though he appeared to be in his late 30s/early 40s), I still couldn't tell whether he had mental problems or was on drugs. Either way, that's no excuse for being a jerkoff.


I'm kind of disappointed that New Jersey and New York went for The Schoolmarm. I can't believe that people still fall for that phony, insincere "Clinton charm." What is it? Nostalgia for the Clinton years? The "two presidents for the price of one" bullshit? I'm glad it's still a race and that there's still time for people to be repulsed by Clinton, but it would have been nice to have been spared the regular staged crying jags that now seem to be part of the strategy to make her more human (not to mention the more visible presence of Jack Nicholson on the campaign trail; he left a recorded message on my answering machine yesterday).

On the other hand, it was nice to see moderate Republicans stepping up to reject the candidates approved by the fanatics. The fact that McCain makes Limbaugh and Hannity and their ilk nuts is just icing on the cake.

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