Why She Fights.

No, this isn’t the “Mother of All Blogs” that I promised last week.  It’s just something I wanted to share with you, specifically a pic I saw on The Chive and what it means to me.  As you’ve no doubt heard, the Iraq was is officially over now, with the drawdown of troops wrapping up as the last units trickled out yesterday.  Many of our military personnel did not return.  Almost 4500 of our service men and women lost their lives in that conflict and I don’t even want to think about how many have been terribly injured, both physically, mentally, and emotionally.  God bless ’em, every one.

But that’s not the discussion I want to have right now.  I want to talk about hope.  Specifically, Iraqi hope.  And it’s all summed up in this picture of a young woman soldier with the 25th Army Infantry division…

It doesn't hurt that she's pretty cute...

There are tons of great pics of American and British soldiers doing wonderful things like teaching Iraqi children how to play baseball, giving piggyback rides and so on.  It’s one of the great legacies of the American Soldier.  Their kindness and compassion is legendary.  The gratefulness of the liberated peoples doesn’t always get the press it deserves, but the kids…my God, the kids love the American grunt.  Ever since WWII, the world knows that the GI’s have good candy and an abundance of smiles.  Sure, there have been exceptions.  A few bad apples sully the good works that 99% of our men and women carry out above and beyond the great call of duty.  But for the most part, you simply have to look at the face of those kids to know how much they adore their liberators.

This photo in particular says something even more about the legacy of the American Soldier.  One can’t help but notice that the soldier in this shot is female.  A blonde, smiling female.  It appears that the children surrounding her are also female.  Little girls.  Little girls who have lived in a part of the world where they have traditionally been relegated to second-class citizens based solely on the fact that they were born without a penis.  No votes, no property, at the whim of religious and political systems designed to keep the Man firmly entrenched in a position of absolute power.  And here they are, looking up to a fully-empowered, ass-kicking, FEMALE member of the United States Army.  This woman can vote, drive a car, use birth control, and disagree publicly with her husband.  If she even HAS a husband.  This American soldier is single-handedly changing the way these little girls view themselves and their world.  Regimes may come to pass wherein conservative religious views try and relegate women to the scrapheap.  Iraq may end up being more like Iran than we want to admit.  But the seed has been planted.  What has been experienced will not be forgotten.  The image of a woman fighting and building alongside her male counterparts will be indelibly etched into the memories of these kids and the thousands around the country that have witnessed similar scenarios. And perhaps just as importantly, the young men that have been in the presence of female soldiers and airmen might just see women in a different light.  Seeing a woman in uniform being saluted by men is no doubt a powerful image for them, no matter how alien it may have at seemed in their past.

Come what may, these kids have experienced two things, at least for a little while, that will shape who they become as adults.  They have tasted freedom, and they have seen how easy it is for men and women to serve together in some of the most stressful scenarios possible.  It will be a long, trying road for Iraq.  But if the children remember what is possible, they might just realize that nothing is IMpossible.  The world certainly hopes so.  God bless the American Soldier, and God Bless the people of Iraq.  May they continue to find their way.

Pictured: The Future

Randomsauce With a Side of WTF and The Lord

Okay, another place holder here.  I’m working on a humdinger.  Not to brag or nuthin’, but it’ll make those Nickelback and Big Bang Theory posts look like that Seahawks-Rams game last Monday night.  But you’ll have to wait on that one, chief.  Patience…

In the meantime, I need to “purge my cache” so to speak.  My wife wants me to do an entire blog on how much I love to say “goddammit.”  I don’t know if there’s enough source material there, but we’ll give it a little test drive.  See, lots of people will tell you that “God Damn It”  is what we call “using the Lord’s name in vain.”  I have empirical  proof that this is not the case: the Episcopal priest that married my wife and me is my star witness.  He told me that every time he smashes his thumb with a hammer or his shin finds the coffee table in the dark of night, “GODDAMMIT!” is the first thing out of his mouth.  This fact in and of itself is not the support for my claim.  It’s just an awesome story, and it’s fun to imagine Father Shane in his priestly wardrobe hopping on one leg and cursing like a sailor.  Oh, in my vision he’s also staggeringly drunk.  He’s Episcopalian, after all.

Pictured: The Rectory at St. Paul's

But his argument backed up my own notions (as all good arguments do.) His rationale was that to truly “use the name of the Lord in vain” is to use His name for your own purposes.  Think “TV Evangelist.”  Or Tim Tebow compelling the Lord to get the ball across the goal line.  Or even praying to win the lottery or cure your disease.  To take it even further (and make a little more sense to me) it is also to say you speak for God, especially when you want others to do your bidding. “God told me to outlaw the gays!  And the single moms!  And the single gays!  And married ones, too!  OUTLAW ALL THE THINGS!!”  It gets worse when you get an ayatollah or other religious leader basically claiming to have a hotline to The Big Guy and The Big Guy wants you to vote for said ayatollah because basically they’re so tight that they’re totally the same person.  BFF!  Yes, claiming to be God would be a fair description of “using the name of the Lord in vain.”  I like to think  that God has more important things (COUGH! DARFUR! COUGH!) to worry about than whether you mentioned his name when you totally slice on the thirteenth.  But that’s just me.  And my priest.

Changing subject.  Why the hell is the light under the escalator green?  It’s ALWAYS green.  The color of glowing evil.  It’s like Minas Morgul is under your feet. Or the Loc-Nar. Think about that for a second.  It’s bad enough that you worry about your shoelace getting caught and ripping your goddam (!) foot off at the ankle in a spinning, whirring, jagged set of evil mechanical teeth.  Maybe there’s also a Nazgul down there.  Or worse.  If you’re old enough, you’ll remember the old trailer for “Alien.”  It was simply a space egg cracking open and evil, glowing, green light-stuff pouring out.  Fuck. That. Aliens, an eternal evil consciousness, and the Witch King are all waiting for you to fall down the goddam steps of the escalator so that they can feast on your soul.  And you’ll totally spill all of your purchases from JC Penney all over the goddam place.  Horrifying.

Third floor: bathware, linens, and the overthrow of humanity...

You guys know that I love old stuff.  I only mention it, oh, EVERY GODDAM TIME I BLOG.  But there are some old things that I don’t get.  Like when we used to think it was acceptable to go out in public in Zubaz pants and aqua socks.  And we did that shit.  Sorry, man…it was the early-nineties.

This shit actually happened.

But old expressions sometimes confuse the hell out of me.  One such turn-of-phrase is “Catch as catch can.” What the FUCK does that mean? I mean, are there other ways to say that without being confusing as hell?  Maybe someone could, oh, I don’t know…come up with some synonyms? Oh, wait! Merriam-Webster has done that for us!  How about some of these: aimless, arbitrarydesultory, erratic, haphazard, helter-skelter, hit-or-miss, scattered, slapdash, stray?

Actually, now that I think about it, I might just start using “catch-as-catch-can” instead of words like “haphazard” (which is equally ridiculous, when you think about it.)  An example: “This sure is one hell of a catch-as-catch-can clusterfuck!”  Or “The Titanic surely would still be afloat if not for that catch-as-catch-can construction!  Goddam Irish!”

"Lifeboats? You want fekkin LIFEBOATS?!"

Anyway, there’s this week’s blog, goddammit.  Sorry if it was sort of catch-as-catch-can.

Old-Timey Movie-time Time! (Part Three)

Okay, time to put this puppy to bed.  By the way, congrats on reading what is my twentieth post!  Wow…doesn’t seem like it should be that many, but there you are.  In case you missed the build-up to this post, well…here you go.  And here.  All caught up?  Good.  Let’s get it on…

Battle of the Bulge

This is the film my father, brother and I would watch every Sunday morning that it aired on one of our local TV channels, which was every-third-week.  Or so it seemed. Yes, this was before we had cable and waaaayyyy before on-demand or what-have-you.  They ran the hits over and over, and apparently this was one movie that the local station had the rights to, so we reaped the benefits.

Eat your heart out, Spielberg!

Why It’s Great: There were a lot of great war films out by the time this one hit theaters in 1965…but this film struck a nerve in my family because my grandfather had participated in events in/around the Bastogne area in 1944.  History time: Grandpa Oren Watson’s 94th Infantry Division was tasked by General Patton with first holding the Siegfried Switch Line against the Germans south of the “Bulge” and second actually attacking across the goddam line to catch the dirty Krauts by surprise, which they totally did.  Oh, by the way, the 94th was primarily a National Guard unit, and many of the men were replacements that had never seen combat. Across from them was a GODDAM S.S. MOUNTAIN DIVISION SUPPORTED BY A TANK REGIMENT. Oh yeah: I should mention that the 94th didn’t have any tanks.  They had some bazookas and a few hand grenades, but yeah.  I imagine some of Grandpa’s cohorts promptly shat themselves before they sucked it up, jumped off, and drove the Germans back to behind their original front lines, almost closing the Bulge and capturing the entire Nazi strike force in a Patton-led snare.  Goddam Montgomery…

Back to what makes this movie great to me. Oh, wait…I just told you!  Knowing how close my family history is connected to the story is what really seals it for me.  Sure, the movie was great for what it was: an old-school battle movie.  Henry Fonda is good as US Lt. General Kiley, and Robert Shaw is menacing as Colonel Hessler, loosely based on actual German Colonel Joachim Peiper.  But honestly, “Band of Brothers” did a better job of telling the story of the men on the ground, the daily fatigue and desperation of the men trapped in the German encirclement. But as a kid, there was nothing better than seeing all those tanks, and their bombs, and their bombs, and their guns, ZAAAAHM-BEEE! ZAAAAHM-BEE!! And like “The Longest Day” it did a great job of following the stories of several individual characters to give the viewer the scope of this massive operation on both sides.  Sure, there are inaccuracies. Sure, all of the characters are made-up amalgams of real people.  But overall, it’s an epic big-time Hollywood shoot-em-up from the days before Michael Bay got his hands on a CG machine.  It’s also one of the last big war movies to come out before the US escalated the conflict in Vietnam, which means it’s unapologetic and non-political.  It’s just good ol’ American grunts slugging it out with Nazis.  And that’s just fine with me.

"Ve shall be needing a bigger boat, mein herr."

Fun Fact: Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas were contractually obligated to appear in every color-filmed WWII movie made until 1978. Okay, I made that up.  In this one, Bronson has my favorite line, and my sister-in-law’s husband Salim and I love to repeat it every Christmas: “Wait a MINUTE! Those were MP’s, not engineers!” See, there are these Germans posing as American troops and…oh, screw it.  Just watch the goddam movie.

Casablanca

Number one.  And it isn’t even close. Possibly the best film ever made.

He was only 5'8" and had a face like a hound dog. And he RULED.

Why It’s Great: I made my wife watch this movie, and she said “It’s not bad!” This is high praise indeed, because one area where my lovely Sweet Baby and I disagree is in my love for old films.  She will automatically turn her nose up at anything shot in black and white.  True story. But for her to enjoy Casablanca is a testament to the movie’s universal appeal.  Her only criticism was that the film contained a lot of cliche’s.  Then I pointed out that they’ve only become played-out devices because every filmmaker since has used them over and over again. Seriously, how many times have you heard characters use a variation of these lines?

“We’ll always have Paris.”

“Round up the usual suspects.” (Shit, they even used that as a TITLE for a movie!)

“Play it, Sam.”

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. ”

“I stick my neck out for nobody.”

“If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. ”

“It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Good shit, right?  Casablanca landed six (SIX!) quotes on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes” list. And that’s not even getting in to the fact that even the way the film was shot influenced directors right up until oh, I don’t know…fucking TODAY!  The scene towards the end where Rick shoots Major Strasser  and the camera cuts quickly between the reactions of the different characters? Before the release of  Casablanca in 1943, it would have been one shot, with all the characters on the screen at once.  Basically, it would look like a stage play.  That’s how Hollywood directors shot movies back then: many of them were just stage directors who’d decided to get into the movie business.  By 1942, you had a crop of filmmakers that had begun experimenting with ways to spice things up and make the scenes “pop” more.  The opening scene in “Citizen Kane,” released in 1941,  has the camera flying up and through a window into the house.  It. Blew. People’s. Minds.  To me, this was the beginning of the true Golden Age of Hollywood.

But I haven’t even mentioned the story!  Or the characters!  I mentioned in Part Two that the “anti-hero” was something new back in the 40’s and 50’s.  Sure, you had the film noir hard-boiled gumshoes, but honestly some of those guys were hard to really like.  Rick Blaine, however…this guy was someone you rooted for.  He’d fought on the losing (but morally right) side before like Mal Reynolds and his Browncoats.  He helps out a young couple who are afraid they’ll have to sacrifice the young bride’s virtue by letting them win at his casino.  And ultimately he sacrifices not only a chance at a long, happy life with his true love but also a lucrative casino/nightclub in order to do the right thing.  And by so doing, he even makes an honest man (and sidekick) out of the corrupt Captain Renault.  He inspires, like Jake Brigance did to Harry Rex, and Randle McMurphy did to everyone in Cuckoo’s Nest.  Rick Blaine is Han Solo coming back to save Luke so he can blow up the Death Star.  He is a hero.  He’s just sort of gruff and has a hint of darkness hovering around.  And we’ve come to love that sort of thing.

She was two inches taller than most of her co-stars. And obviously way more attractive.

Fun Fact: The crew was meticulous in the way they shot Ingrid Bergman. She was shown primarily from her preferred left side, and lights and filters were employed to make her eyes sparkle.  Well, sparkle more than they already did.  What a dish.

And here’s your bonus fact and video.  The text is from IMDB

“In the famous scene where the ‘Marseillaise’ is sung over the German song ‘Watch on the Rhine’, many of the extras had real tears in their eyes; a large number of them were actual refugees from Nazi persecution in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and were overcome by the emotions the scene brought out. ”

Notice that the Germans sing “Watch on the Rhine.” That was the German code-name for the invasion of the Ardennes Forest, AKA, the “Battle of the Bulge.”  That, children, is how you wrap up a blog.  Here’s lookin’ at you.

Old-Timey Movie-time Time! (Part Two)

Okay, then.  Let’s do this.  Here, finally, are some of my favorite films.  I’ve decided I like talking about movies, so this won’t be the last time I go on and on…but it’s a start.  In particular, these are “older” films.  Vintage, if you will.  And ones that I will sit and watch every single time they’re on TCM or whatever.  They’re not necessarily my favorite films of all time, mind you…but at least one would be in the top-five.

War of the Worlds

Not the fairly decent 2005 Spielberg film.  That one is okay, and in some ways closer to the original H.G. Wells novel.  But as a general epic sci-fi classic, it’s hard to beat this one from 1953.

What? Can't be Martians. Martians use flying saucers. Must be Commies!

Why It’s Great: Honestly, there was a lot of crap in 50’s science fiction.  Don’t get me wrong, I love ALL of  it. After “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and this one, well…the quality drops off the map.  Now that I think about it, 50’s sci-fi was like slasher films are today.  Not a month goes by without a Saw rip-off or remake of an 80’s franchise like “Halloween” or “Friday the 13th.”  But kids keep paying to see ’em, so they keep making ’em. This film was unique in that it had a decent budget, glorious Technicolor, and a wonderful sense of “how the hell do we beat these things?” fear that doesn’t really let up until the end.  Today we know that Will Smith will find a way to save us, but during the early days of the Cold War nobody knew any such thing.  The Godless Commies were everywhere, and could be knocking at your door RIGHT NOW!!  DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR!  GAAAAHHH!!! COMMIES!!  Today everything is a parable about terrorism and how we handle it.  Back then, everything was Commies.

Fun Fact: The hero in this film is a character named Dr. Clayton Forrester.  Does that name sound familiar?  If you’re an MST3K fan, it should.  On that amazing program from the bygone era of 90’s cable TV, the main antagonist (and mad scientist) was named Dr. Clayton Forrester in homage to this film.  Fucking perfect.

Stalag 17

Like “Hogan’s Heroes?”  Pretty funny television show, considering it was based in, you know…a German POW camp.  That show was very loosely based on this 1953 film, which was in turn based on a Broadway stage play which was based on actual experiences by the playwright. Also? 1953 was apparently a great year to go to the movies.

He looks smug because he totally escapes.

Why It’s Great: I would give one of my testicles to play  William Holden’s role  in this film.  The whole cast is epic, but he shines as Sefton, a role he won the Academy Award for that year. Not bad, considering he wanted to turn down the role because he thought the character was too cynical and selfish.  Those attributes, however, is why he’s one of my favorite leads ever. Along with Rick from “Casablanca” (spoiler alert: Casablanca is on this list) he epitomized the “anti-hero.”  Han Solo, Wolverine, etc. are direct descendants of J.J. Sefton.  And for storytelling, it isn’t ever better than the penultimate scene where Sefton steps from the shadows after listening to the German mole discuss plans with the Nazis, lights a cigar, and says “Ach, so!”  SCENE ENDS.  FADE OUT.

Fun Fact: Holden was perfectly cast as Sefton, beating out Charlton Heston and Kirk Douglas for the role that he didn’t even want to begin with.  How perfect?  He almost seemed to be in character when he accepted his Oscar.  His speech was a simple “Thank you.”  Then he exited, stage left.

Singin’ in the Rain

You’re saying “Whoa, whoa, WHOA!! A MUSICAL?!?  How the..WHAAAAAAT?!?” Calm down.  There have been dozens of great musicals, and I’m man enough to admit that I love seeing Ewan McGregor woo ladies in the crappy “A Life Less Ordinary” and the delightful “Moulin Rouge.”  Dude…that’s Mark Fucking Renton you’re talking about!  Obi Wan Fucking Kenobi!  If he’s man enough, then shut up and hear the news: this film is one of my all-time faves.  In 1952, this was like the damned pinnacle of cinematic brilliance on so many levels.  Cinematography, story, acting, singing, dancing, betrayal…perfect.

Why, she's pretty enough to be Princess Leia's mom! Oh, wait...

Why It’s Great: Dude…Donald O’Connor is the second-best dancer in this film.  Gene Muthafukin Kelly not only dances, sings, and acts the lead, he choreographed every scene and, oh, by the way, DIRECTED the fucking film!  Fuck!  But Debbie Reynolds…oh, sweet Mother of Mercy.  If you can watch this movie and not fall head-over-heels in love with Kathy Selden, then you are a gay male or totally dead on the inside. Also, try and watch this thing and not have at least four of the songs stuck in your head for the REST OF YOUR GODDAMN LIFE.

Fun Fact(s): A movie this great has too many to mention. Here are the highlights…

Debbie Reynolds had no dancing experience.  She was a gymnast (even hotter!) and her stumbles during rehearsals caused Gene Kelly to insult her.  She went and cried under a piano, where none other than Fred Muthafuckin Astaire found her, comforted her (aww, yeah!) and TAUGHT HER TO DANCE.  In your FACE, Gene Kelly!

But Gene was still a man, baby.  During the title number, Gene danced around in “rain” made of milk and Debbie Reynolds’ tears.  It caused his suit to shrink over the 2-3 days it took to film the scene.  Which would be bad enough if he weren’t also deathly ill and running a 103-degree fever. Nowadays Lindsay Lohan calls in sick for a hangnail during the shoot for “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

Speaking of illness, funnyman Donald O’Connor (my favorite) had to be hospitalized after shooting the “Make ‘Em Laugh” number.  It was a very physically demanding scene, with Donald flopping over couches and throwing himself to the floor repeatedly Johnny Knoxville-style.  Apparently it was a little too much for a skinny dude who smoked FOUR PACKS OF CIGARETTES A DAY.  Eisenhower smoked that much, but he was A) Planning the invasion of goddamn Europe and B) Not dancing with a mop.

Holy crap.  I still have two more movies to go!  You know what that means?  Yep.  Part Three.  Sigh.  See you in a couple of days, then?