Saturday, November 17, 2007

Visiting Neil, Part II:
Beowulf, Artifice, War

I awoke this morning with images from Beowulf erupting in my head, always a good sign with a film that it hit me at a primal level. The primal 'winner' of November to date remains Sean Penn's excellent Into the Wild, a truly great film that kept me awake for two nights afterwards (I could not shake the movie).

Beowulf's images that bubbled up front and center, though, were odd: it's not the story, the narrative peaks, that malinger. It's the crystalline clarity of digital imagery, the microscopic fidelity to manufactured reality, that seemed to most haunt my unconsciousness: the compelling intensity of the simulcrum, the virtual humunculi, that inhabit the film. The 'big moments' aren't what thrust themselves to the fore: it's the intimate details of Beowulf's face, of the simulation of flesh, that peppered my dreams.

All cinema is artifice. It's the nature of the medium, the persistence of vision we grow up with sustaining the alchemy of light, successive images projected at a proper frames-per-second rate, and our mind's fluid sustenance of that into movement. But Beowulf is a new artifice, the latest in the CGI realm's reinvention of invented realities, and the 3D viewing experience pushed that further on an organic, animal level for me.

Digital projection (and the creation of digital images) works differently, and my mind is reacting to seeing in a new way -- I'm referring to seeing in a new way as a biological function, not a response to Beowulf's vision or aesthetic, which is secondary to how my eye/mind is reacting to a sustained new viewing experience of a wholly new nature. I cannot react to Beowulf without acknowledging this more fundamental aspect of the new reality of seeing movies on the big screen:

The magic lantern, reinvented.

More later...

I was also awakened at one point last night dreaming about the night of my draft lottery back in the early '70s, amplified horribly. I fear for the resurrection of the draft, an inevitable consequence of how badly President Bush and his cronies have manhandled, misused and stretched the volunteer military to a break-point. The dream was likely prompted in part by Marge and I seeing Dartmouth's production of Hair in the Moore Theater, in part by my ongoing fears for my son and his generation: an old mirror restored, the new reality's urgency.

My son Dan's childhood friend Chris Whitney is in Iraq now, and has been for years; that's never far from my mind. "How did we allow this to happen again?" -- we have so shafted our sons and daughters with our shared complicity in this madness.

More evidence of our military straining under the gross (I would and have said 'abusive') incompetence of our Commander in Chief continues to simmer in the news, the first news story in que on the computer this AM.

It resonates with the splinters from that mid-morning dream; the signs on the highway en route to Neil's house offered hand-painted odes to "our troops," which Neil noted yesterday has changed many times in its wording over the past years. Here, in the idyll of Neil's wonderful home and hospitality, the heart of the mid-American continent, I wake and worry for my son and for Chris and their time in manufactured hell, present (Chris) and projected (Dan), compliments of our Commander in Chief and his cabal.

Have a great Saturday; we will, I hope... Neil's making pancakes, off I go to breakfast...

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Blogger Jackson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Mark Martin said...

What are Chris's views on the war? Does he want to be there or was he railroaded?

Blogger Mike Dobbs said...

Mark...I'm going to post a piece on my blog that I wrote about a locally written book with 30 interviews from Iraqi vets.

And if you want to get some sort of consensus I'll be happy to lend you The War Tapes and Alive Day.

Blogger SRBissette said...

I can't speak for Chris (nor did I) -- just my own fears for him, and his generation.

Whatever the circumstances of volunteering for the all-volunteer military of 2007, the fact is the Commander in Chief and Rumsfeld charted an unprecedented ruinous course by essentially breaking/extending the 'contracts' via interminable service -- as monstrously Kafkaesque a conceit as interminable "detainment" (read: imprisonment) without prosecution -- and thus pushing human stamina to and beyond the break point. Choose your terminology: poor judgment, recklessness, unfair, poor management, stupidity, abuse of trust, deceitful, self-destructive, bad policy, etc.

The consequences for soldiers, their families and the military is well documented and earning ongoing attention on a weekly basis, and none of it is good news. Strapped employers cannot functionally grant interminable leave; families cannot humanly redress interminable service, particularly those of National Guard soldiers serving under extraordinary circumstances since 2003; the military has never gone this long with such short-term rotation (all now extended beyond any reasonable expectation) from such a limited pool.

Bush is clearly playing this rope out to the end of his term, leaving the multi-level disaster he has orchestrated for the next President to deal with. There are not -- nor will there be -- any "good" solutions. By postponing any scale of sacrifice or active involvement from the majority of US households (save that 'invisible' $20,000+ suction per household to foot the bill), Bush has guaranteed that whatever the next President does -- withdraw, initiate a draft, attempt to extend Bush's current policies without addressing the mounting consequences -- will be perceived as disastrous (and most likely will be).

Deferring the consequences has only exponentially increased the consequences, but the deferral is Bush's only strategy -- if the shit doesn't visibly slam the fan on his watch, the illusion that he's off the hook, that he isn't culpable, can be argued/preserved.

In any case, Bush has "honored our troops" by stretching the all-volunteer military beyond any rational measure. It's a despicable situation, and Bush is responsible.

Blogger SRBissette said...

PS: The removed post was an advertisement disguised as a post (for car repair or some such), hence its deletion.

Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I think the visceral test - how a movie sticks with you days later - is as good as any in deciding on the quality of a movie. Though, in fact, I haven't actually SEEN a movie in 5 months.

Blogger Mark Martin said...

Mike (and Steve) -

Thanks, but I probably won't read all of your long posts, or watch all of The War Tapes or Alive Day. Just as I'm sure you won't read all of the stuff I could send you that tells the opposite view, from actual soldiers and vets and military families. Just having a lot of military people that agree with you does not prove anything. And I don't want to educate you.

I was just wondering about Chris.

HEY! I just got EXACTLY the same wiggly word verification that I got yesterday!

Blogger SRBissette said...

"Just having a lot of military people that agree with you does not prove anything."

Mark, Mike and I were raised in military families.

Please, educate us -- knowing, too, Bush is COMMANDER IN CHIEF. In the rank and file reality of the military, his will is unquestionable -- he's top brass, there's no one higher.

For ANY military family or soldier, much less three-to-five-star generals, to speak out against the will of their Commander in Chief is an extraordinary event. The cumulative discord is astounding, evidence of how badly this Commander in Chief has bungled matters.

There are plenty of good soldiers and families adhering to the Bush doctrine. It's their job, their faith, their core belief system. I respect and honor that, but it doesn't make President Bush right. He's Commander in Chief: in military rank and file, he is by definition the highest power, and to be obeyed.

I'm sorry you won't take the time to educate us. I read plenty of online sites, blogs, etc. from soldiers and military support groups still for this war -- but you have to take that in the context of the military reality, too, Mark. It's not a vacuum.

I'm sorry more Americans won't take the time to read, watch, listen and educate themselves, either.

And ya, I just wonder about Chris, too.

Blogger Mark Martin said...

Who wasn't raised in a military family? Well, I guess there are some out there. But I have soldiers in my family too. I think it's odd the way you and Mike refer to that as a source of moral authority - or whatever you call it, I don't mean to ASSume - but you must know you act like it gives you some sort of authority in the debate.

Really, I just wondered about Chris. Don't think that I, or anybody else who won't waste time arguing with you, does not take the time to read, watch etc. And if you already read plenty of pro-this war material from people who are actually there, what the hell can I add?

Well, this has been interesting. See you Thursday!


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