Monday, October 29, 2001

Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit

OK. Checked out Donnie Darko with Andrew, my son and faithful sidekick. Something about that creepy fucking rabbit poster just made me want to see it. Creepy, metallic rabbits have that effect on me. Evidently, I'm an anomaly. The theater was jam-packed with people who weren't there. Pity the poor dude in the marketing department who made the demographic miscalculation. He's probably dressed as a giant weiner somewhere, bopping up at down at minimum wage in 110 degree heat attempting to get you to stop your car and bop into Nathan's Famous and bite one of their weiners.

The poster tells you nothing about what the movie's about. I've seen the movie. Twice. (Thereby doubling its ticket sales in its meteoric one-week run.) I still don't know what it's about. Hell, I even checked out their bizarro-world website and followed the clues. I still don't get it. But I still love it. If it was playing somewhere, I'd see it again.

As best I grasp it, there's been a hard-drive error in time. The universe is looping in on itself, replaying the same month, over and over again. Eventually, the system will become unstable -- and the whole shooting match will be destroyed. One kid -- Donnie Darko -- is the causeless cause of the glitch. For some reason, he's supposed to die -- when an airplane engine (ripped into that space-time address via a wrinkle in time from an alternative temporal vector) crashes through his bedroom roof.
The freaking evil rabbit warns him, so Donnie gets out of bed and cheats death. Eventually, he sacrifices himself, at the advice of the evil rabbit, who's actually a good kid named Frank. Time loops around again. Donnie stays in bed and the engine kills him. The time-skipping stops. Before it does, he lives more life than most of us ever will in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

Of course, if the rabbit hadn't warned him, Donnie would have stayed in bed and died: problem solved.

But, if he hadn't died, he couldn't have sent the engine through time ...

Ah, fuck it. Sorry if I made your brain bleed. Every time travel movie is a three-card monte game. Best not to think about it, as Austin Powers once said.

Forget the arc of sacrifice and the say-what logic to justify it. The movie isn't so much a Gaudi-like, overdone SF architecture of lost time. It is lost time. Within his arcane SF/fantasy structure, Richard Kelly has taken a slice of time from the recent past -- the late 1980s, which still seem like yesterday to me -- and then made it real again. The past recaptured. 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds of it.

Teens boil with sexual and spiritual frustration at a repressive school. The clothes are preppy uniforms. The music is all Duran Duran and INXS. The pop references are all C.H.U.D., Smurfs, Stephen King and the final battle between good and evil waged by Reagan and Dukakis. America's brand of Fascism Lite is in the air: reductive self-help programs created by a secret kiddy-porn lover and stuffed down the children's throats. The kids compete for Star Search. To the tune of Notorious, a girl group called Sparkle Motion wows the crowd with, well, dance moves that seem creepy when little kids do it. The good teachers are powerless and marginalized. They give good advice, but out of the corner of their mouths. Something very bad is going on, and they're powerless to stop it. Somebody, somehow, is stealing the children's future.

This movie about the 80s is told with a spot-on recreation of the look-and-feel of the movies from the 80s: the ouvre of John Hughes, and others like him. Michael Andrews' soundtrack brilliantly captures the synthpop, Minimoog feel of the time. And I like his cover of Mad World better than the Tears for Fears original.

Kelly's film (his first fucking film!!) is not an exercise in nostalgia. It's an attempt to express an inexpressible loss. Donnie Darko, heroically, does the Christ thing and give his life. He saves the universe. But, then again, Donnie Darko is dead.

Without being literal and allegorical, the movie's screenwriter/director is clearly saying some undefinable darkness was in the air. The adults left the children to deal with problems that children shouldn't have to deal with. Some of the children got killed. Some of the best children. The world was saved, but the world was diminished. We've lost something, some possibility of growth, human possibility, intimacy and freedom. The irony is, we don't even know what we've lost. Or who saved us.

At film's end, there's a montage where everyone weeps for their undefined loss. It could've been maudlin. But I think the director/screenwriter earned that scene.

I'm not sure where this last puzzle piece fits. But I'll drop it on the table anyway. Nobody seems to have caught the reference ...

In Butterflies are Free, Donnie Dark was the hero created by the mother character in a series of children's books she wrote to give hope to her blind son. Donnie Dark was a child, a superhero, and blind.

He saved everybody.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to put on my giant weiner costume and get back to work.

Thursday, October 18, 2001

The problem is ...

Overheard on NPR. Narrator -- classic BBC accent -- talking about US dropping propaganda leaflets designed by clever ad agency (copywriter = brainy lady behind Gillette razor campaign, I think) to win hearts and minds of Afghanis. A line worthy of “Monty Python”...

ANNOUNCER: The problem is what advertisers call sales resistance or, more accurately, acute hatred.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

We bombed in Kabul

How exactly are we supposed to bomb Afghanistan back to the stone age? They're already in the stone age.

Takes all the fun out of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2001

Obvious prediction

The X-Files/JFK crowd will come to the conclusion that 9-11 was a government conspiracy. No, seriously. Yeah, I know the fucking planes crashed into those buildings on national television. That's just smoke and mirrors.

There was a plane behind the grassy knoll, man.

Play the footage back, man. You'll see it.

This may sound like a joke, O faithful readers. It's not.

Wait and see.

Friday, October 12, 2001

Goofy Agonistes

There's this Disney cartoon from the 40s I remember. All about spreading panic. Goofy, I think, was involved. People whispering in each others ears conjuring visions of famine, skeletons, and death -- the visions getting worse as the rumors spread from ear to ear.

OK, I don't want to do that. But I have an intuition, a very strong one, and I want to pass it on. FBI doesn't accept email, goddamnit, so I'm passing it on here...

I think the current alert for this weekend is disinformation. I think the next punch to America's groin is set for Oct. 22.

I had a hunch Sept. 11 was significant, symbolic date. Then I heard on the radio -- NPR I think -- that Sept. 11, was an anniversary of some date connected with the 1917 Balfour declaration which set process in motion ultimately leading to creation of Israel. So I started digging for other dates. What I found on some historical database...

"Shortly after midday on Saturday, October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a concerted military attack against Israel. They had chosen to attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, a day when most Israelis were in synagogues praying and fasting.

On October 22, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 338 calling for 'all parties to the present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately.' The vote came on the day that Israeli forces cut off and isolated the Egyptian Third Army and were in a position to destroy it."

That's it. Oct 22 -- date of Arab's disgraceful defeat in the 1973 war.

Heads up.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Operation Kill All Terrorists Everywhere

Wars are self-limiting and can be won. Police actions can never be won. It’s like the police thinking that, one fine day, they’ll win the war against crime. Dick Tracy knows better. You beat Pruneface, here comes Flathead. There's always another bad guy.

A commitment to a police action means infinite commitment -- A COMMITMENT TO PAY ANY PRICE FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME. If you pretend a police action is a war (with a finite, winnable “end”) you are setting yourself up to turn tail and run -- as we did in Vietnam, after the Marine barracks bombing in Kosovo, our aborted war in Iraq (where we stopped at the border and left Saddam in power), the savaging of the helicopter pilots in Somalia, etc. -- and, for that matter, the cretinous “war on drugs” or “war on poverty.”

We keep bashing our heads against the wall because we keep getting ourselves into wars that aren’t really wars -- either for shortsighted, pinhead economically motivated “realpolitik” or PR and empty symbolism. We wind up in open-ended police actions where the choice is (A) turn tail and run (B) stay forever and take the body blows.
Osama has observed this. His entire strategy is based on this.

He figures our commitment (willingness to suffer, sacrifice, expend resources) is not infinite -- that he can, ultimately, keep raising the stakes and calling our hand until we fold.

That is why the fucker deliberately provoked us into going to war in Afghanistan. He figures to stir up a Jihad in which his followers are willing to pay any price -- unlike us. Which is why he figures we’ll leave, he’ll win and become King Shit of a new Caliphate.

Now that we’re committed it is too late to walk away: but we have to create a definite, achievable objective. This needs to be Operation Manhunt, not Operation Kill All Terrorists Everywhere. If we try to do that, we will bleed ourselves white and fail.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Throw away the Vietnam era playbook! Cal Thomas says so!

Screw Cal Thomas for rejoicing on some dumbass Fox talk show that we can “throw away the Vietnam era playbook” with all it’s stupid lessons like, “Wars should have definite objectives,” or, “We shouldn’t keep sending guys out to die for no reason whatsoever.”

Somebody give that man an Agent Orange enema. Now.

2001: A War Odyssey

OK, so we're going to war. Look on the bright side -- what's the worst that could happen?

The end of the world.

OK, uh. What's the second worst that could happen?

The engagement grinds on. Try as we might to avoid civilian casualties, we're making an omelette and breaking eggs. TV Jihad flashes pics of dead Arab women and kids. The Arab street erupts (as I predicted and has already started to happen) -- the rulers of Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia get to play Anwar Sadat -- or drop support for America. While they're making up their minds, suicide bombers blow up most of the Middle East oil fields. Most of the leaders then drop us. The stock market crashes -- world opinion starts back-pedaling away from us. Then Ramadan hits and the Islamic mob goes nuts from Morocco to Indonesia. Our troops, meanwhile, are bogged down and suffering heavy casualties -- captives are tortured, used as hostages, executed in show trials, forced to mouth confessions. Nasty shit goes down in America from some of the sleeper cells dramatic, massive, ugly shit. American resolve weakens. Pakistan has continued to support us -- but goes down in bloody Iran-style revolution. The Taliban takes over, gets the H-bomb, threatens to blow up Israel or some target in Western Europe if America doesn't leave -- not only from Afghanistan, but the Middle East entirely -- and we do. We leave, as the Russians did before us. The true believers hoot and holler. We return, broken.

What's the best that could happen?

We get in there, kill Osama and some key officials, declare victory and leave. Once home, we launch a Manhattan project into alternative energy and do our best to sever dependence on Mideast oil as soon as possible.

An attempt to do anything more is idiotic, reality-denying suicide.

We are not going to eliminate terror, goddamnit. What's next? A war on anxiety? A full-scale assault on angst?

You can go to war against terrorists. You can't go to war against terror. Terror isn't an entity. Terror is a tactic. It's like starting a war against flanking maneuvers.

The modern idea of terror goes back to the French revolution. The notion: it's a rational fear based on an understanding of bad things that will happen to you if. If the loanshark cuts off your thumb because the payments were late -- that's terror. If Michael Myers knifes you for no reason whatsoever -- that's horror. Get it?

Obviously the French didn't invent this shit. It's as old as any bully in the world using intimidation to control. It's a fucking emotion. You can't go to war against an emotion.

The attempt is ludicrous, bound to fail. It's all there in the original name for the damn war: "Operation Infinite Justice."

JOHN WAYNE: Alright men, we're going to eliminate all evil everywhere -- let's go!

Tuesday, October 9, 2001

"2001" vs. 2001

The future we were promised: Portable, flat TV sets, PicturePhones, routine space travel, orbiting particle beam weapons, hotels in space stations, a moon base, sentient computers, and a Space Fetus who saves humanity from self-destruction.

The future we got: a conspiracy of Muslim fundamentalist terrorists who bring down Western Civilization with box cutters.

Sunday, October 7, 2001

Afghanistan, Afshmanistan

I suppose this is all historically necessary, but a verse from Kipling comes to mind ...

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.