Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Real Life: Strangers in Fiction

There are some things in life so unlikely that one is apt not to believe them even when they turn out to be true. An example? I got a television. Actually, I got another one. The super at my place gave me one a few years ago. Or maybe it only feels like it's been in the doorway for years. I wanted to throw it out, but I didn't want the guy seeing it in the dumpster and thinking I'm ungrateful. Then I got a dvd player from a friend. My floor is sagging already with all the books in my place. What I need is more stuff? So, there I am complaining about more stuff and a friend drops in with a monster tv, saying he knew I had a new dvd player and he just happened to have bought a new tv that's even bigger than this sucker he's dropped off. Today a friend asked me if my new tv works. He asked how many channels I get. I told him I don't know, I've never tried it. Why would I watch tv? It never occurred to me to turn it on. Instead, I watched a Clint Eastwood movie on dvd. My neighbors all think I'm a psycho. Alright, they're certain now. Last evening I had earplugs in the tv sound slot so I wouldn't piss off everyone in the neighborhood. The neighbours heard me laughing in the dark for hours all by myself. You just can't win.

I watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I think it's based on the Prisoners' Dilemma. I didn't think that the first time I saw it, when I was eight or ten-- or something. Back then I think I liked it because it's funny, same as I still think it's funny. I haven't seen a movie in 20 years. Maybe they're all funny. I think The Dirty Dozen is hilarious.

I read somewhere that humor is the plausible but unexpected. I've been around long enough now to know that much is plausible, and most of it is unexpected. Usually I laugh. The philosopher Rene Girard makes me laugh. So do jihadis, often.

I laugh while watching The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly because it's plausible, though things that happen are unlikely and yet happen anyway.

And then there's the wacky world of television, where plausible thing happen that are unexpected, and I don't find them funny at all. I read this on the Internet and now I know why I don't watch tv.

Andrew Klavan, "Shocked … Shocked!", Klavan on the Culture. June 9th, 2009

Boy oh boy, these last few days have been full of surprises, haven’t they? One shocking revelation tumbles out after another. Here’re just a few blind-siders coming in from way out of left field:

Adam Lambert is gay. I mean, hold the phone, Mabel, I never saw that coming! You’re telling me the guy who would surely have won American Idol this year if it were, in fact, a singing contest instead of an informal poll of which guy 13-year-old girls find cute but unthreatening is batting for the other team??? You know, now that I think about it, when we saw pictures of him wearing eyeliner, dressing in drag and kissing another guy, I sort of thought something might be going on. But not that! Never that!

I had no idea of what I'm missing. I spend my free time reading. I never tire of it.

I never tire of the Prisoners' Dilemma. In the case of the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, it's a Mexican Standoff. By the strangest of coincidences, as I type this, sure enough, on the radio is now playing Stealer's Wheel, "Stuck in the Middle with You." I saw the movie, Reservoir Dogs, years ago on television. It has a scene in which this tune plays. It ends with a Mexican Standoff. I laugh.

How do we make honest decisions and act in good faith? I accept that I will probably regret some actions later; but I know that if I don't act because I'm waiting for perfection, then all will be lost. That's not a bad thing, I guess, if I were watching television. But life is funny. There's watchers and then there's actors. Conservatives are watchers. Leftards, often, are actors. We know the result.

Watchers can only stop actors by acting. I think it's very funny. If I'd known when I was a kid how funny it would be, I would have pleaded sickness and never have gotten out of bed at all. It's good, it's bad, and it's ugly. Much of the time the dilemma's funny. You just can't win.

"The Story of a Soldier"
from the film The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
music by Ennio Morricone
lyrics by Tommy Connor
Bugles are calling
from prairie to shore,
"Sign up" and "Fall in"
and march off to war.
Drums beating loudly,
Hearts beating proudly
Match Blue and Grey
And smile as you say Goodbye.
Smoke hides the valleys
And fire paints the plains.
Loud roar the cannons
'Til ruin remains:
Blue grass and cotton
Burnt and forgotten
All hope seems gone
So soldier march on to die.
There in the distance
A flag I can see,
Scorched and in ribbons
But whose can it be;
How ends the story,
Whose is the glory,
Ask if we dare
Our comrades out there who sleep.
Lyrics to "The Story of A Soldier" as sung in the film

Bugles are calling from prairie to shore,
"Sign up" and "Fall In" and march off to war.
Blue grass and cotton, burnt and forgotten
All hope seems gone so soldier march on to die.
Bugles are calling from prairie to shore,
"Sign up" and "Fall In" and march off to war.
There in the distance a flag I can see,
Scorched and in ribbons but whose can it be,
How ends the story, whose is the glory
Ask if we dare, our comrades out there who sleep
(Thanks to Michael Caletka and Addie Smith)

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