Much hoopla has surrounded the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, so much of it reveling in the historic words of Martin Luther King Jr. And yet, as iconic as those words and images have become, there must remain a distinct bitterness not only because a second march on Washington, The Poor People’s March of 1968, failed, but because deep-seated racism – the economic and back room sort – has remained as strong as ever. Martin Luther King Jr. made a most remarkable speech the night before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968, remarkable not only for its eloquence and intelligence but for his understanding of what lay ahead. “(W)e are asking you tonight to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola…not to buy Sealtest milk…not to buy Wonder Bread. (W)e must kind of redistribute that pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies…Now not only that, we’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a “bank-in” movement in Memphis.”
Occupy Wall Street’s failure is nothing new.
The problem is that people – that’s you and me – just don’t care that much about helping each other, that action is only galvanized by violent images of oppression, never by the root of the cause.
The violent imagery from Birmingham (1963) that helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement.
“And so just as I say we aren’t going to let any dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around.” The sad thing is that Martin Luther King Jr. was wrong about that; injunctions do turn everyone around because the enemy isn’t the physical acts of oppression but the insidious inaction of indifference.
Part two of another potential Apollofilm: Dee stays at her sister Crystal’s apartment where Crystal’s boyfriend, Derek, is over for dinner. DEE goes into the bedroom after APOLLO.
CRYSTAL: Don’t let him back out! Don’t.
DEE: We’ll go for a walk in a minute.
CRYSTAL (Staring out the window): What makes fire fighters so full of shit? DEREK: The witching hour is upon us.
CRYSTAL: I couldn’t hear you. Too much cackling.
DERK: (Turning on the television): Have another glass. CRYSTAL: Like I need your permission.
DEREK: What about not getting totally fucked up?
DEE: (To CRYSTAL): Walk Apollo with me.
CRYSTAL: I can get as fucked up as I want, baby, because I know you and your friends are here to make the save.
DEE: (Standing): Come on. Let’s go.CRYSTAL: (Refilling her glass, looking into it and then drinking everything): Acting like you’re at the center of the universe when you’re just a fat old woman watching it on TV.
DEREK: Ease up, will you?
CRYSTAL: My mother, that’s who you remind me of, my fucking mother, staring at the fucking TV, not shutting up, blah, blah, fucking blah.
DEE gets Apollo out of the bedroom and goes down the hall after him. CRYSTAL (Walking behind her): Your legs look good.
DEE (Letting APOLLO out): Thanks..
CRYSTAL: You working out?
DEE: Where are your shoes?
CRYSTAL checks her phone for messages. DEE: Hey, is everything okay?
CRYSTAL: (Not looking up):Super duper.
DEE: You’re sure you’re all right with me being in your place?
CRYSTAL: I don’t like it when you get passive on me. It’s not cool.
DEE: I don’t want to get in your space.
CRYSTAL: You were born in my space. I have to live with that. (Looking up, snapping her phone closed) You have to live with that too.
DEE: I know Apollo can be a pain.
CRYSTAL: I don’t give a shit about the dog. Why would I give a shit about the dog, except that it smells and pisses on the floor?
DEE: I’ll move as soon as I can find a place.
CRYSTAL gets her phone out again and struggles to focus on the screen. She laughs to herself and sends a reply.
DEE: What was that about mom?
CRYSTAL (Yelling back to DEREK): You passed out, baby?
DEE: What did you mean?
CRYSTAL (Looking back blankly): What?
DEE: You said something about mom. CRYSTAL: Mother?
DEE: You think about her like that?
CRYSTAL (Pushing DEE out and closing the door).: Try not to get raped, okay?
Another potential Apollofilm: Dee stays at her sister Crystal’s apartment where Crystal’s boyfriend, Derek, is over for dinner.
DEREK: Want to hear my cop down story? (Puts down his hamburger): I mean, just seeing a cop on his little bicycle is enough, isn’t it? Anyway, he’s going along, Dum de dum, right? And he sees something up ahead, and this car door opens up right in front of him. Bam! Cop goes flying, head over heels, and lands right on his ass. (Laughs, food coming out of his mouth) He’s just lying there and the guy in the car is looking down at him like he’s committed assault, right? He’s thinking he’s going to jail, and the cop pulls the radio off his shoulder and yells, ‘Officer down! Officer down!’ The driver jumps back like this, right? He looks like he’s going to take off now. Holy shit, I couldn’t stop laughing. Those guys are fucking babies.
CRYSTAL: You’re such a pig. (She suddenly gets up, goes through the piles of papers and garbage on the table and television, and opens a fresh packet of cigarettes.) DEREK He had his little ticket book out before he was even off the ground. That’s fucking New York.
CRYSTAL: New Yorkers are so full of shit. If you tell them to beat somebody, they’d do it. Everyone will. They’ll say they do it because they’re afraid. That’s bullshit. They do it because they have the permission. They want to. They want to do it before it’s done to them.
DEREK: Be good, babe. (He picks at a scar on the back of his bicep and shrugs at DEE when he catches her looking) It’s just an old burn.
DEE: I couldn’t do that.
DEE: Be a fireman.
DEREK: Fire fighter. We fight them. We don’t make them.
DEE: Fire fighter then.
DEREK: It’s not for women. CRYSTAL: Only misogynists.
DEREK (Answers his phone) Yeah? (Pause) Who? (Pause) No. (Pause) Where? Where you at? (Pause) Call Ricky. He’ll get you. (Nodding anxiously) Yeah, call Ricky. He’ll be there.
CRYSTAL: Missing a party?
DEREK: A couple of the boys got off the wagon. (Scrolls through his messages) They’re good.
CRYSTAL: My fire fighter hero.
DEREK: Let me tell you something…there is nothing like making a save. Nothing in this life, there is nothing like that.
CRYSTAL: So you’ve said.
DEREK: You go into a place where people die. You bring them out of that. It’s the best thing a man can do.
DEREK throws the empty ketchup packets at the garbage and misses. APOLLO jumps after them, banging into Crystal’s legs.CRYSTAL: Fucking dog! (Kicks at him) Move! Fucking move!
APOLLO jumps back and darts into the bedroom.
CRYSTAL: That thing belongs in the zoo.
DEE: He was just playing.
DEREK: You know who the boys ran into? Fucking Stevie Wright.
CRYSTAL: Who’s fucking Stevie Wright?
DEREK: From Woodside. Spring Match.
CRYSTAL: The guy you beat up?
DEREK: It’s boxing, babe. I didn’t beat anyone up.
CRYSTAL (To DEE) It’s the annual punch-up between the police and fire departments. Real high-brow stuff. Derek won last year. DEREK: Beat the crap out of him.
CRYSTAL (Pulls her sweater sleeves over her palms, spreading them out): But you love making the saves, right, baby?
DEREK: Don’t get all pissy because of a fucking dog.
As much as the people of the United States might like to focus on their guns, let’s not forget that chemical weapons are also part of an historic past. Smallpox-infected blankets were given to Native Americans as part of a virtual genocide in the 18th century. The U.S. government is also known to have used chemical weapons in World War I, developed a biological weapons project under Franklin D Roosevelt and doused pretty much all of Vietnam with Agent Orange. And then of course there’s the use of nuclear weapons.
And so…what if the United States government had decided that chemical weapons were worth the amendment, and not guns, in 1791? A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear chemical weapons shall not be infringed. Is this what they would be fighting for now? Would it be the National Chemical Weapons Associations (NCWA) rather than the National Rifle Association (NRA)? Would mentally crazed individuals be running through campuses spraying nerve gas? Would so many others be collecting various strains and keep them loosely locked in bedroom closets? And would the U.S. government send aid to Syria, in the form of canisters, when people were killed by gunfire instead?
One hopes and prays and bashes his head against the wall. But it knows. It can bide its time. It knows that all the errors, all the detours, all the failures and frustrations will be turned to account.To be born a writer, one must learn to live privation, suffering, humiliation. Above all, one must live apart. The writer clings to his limb while beneath him life surges by steady, persistent, tumultuous. (Henry Miller on Writing, 73)
What is it with science fiction writing? Why does the writing have to be so bad? This is not to say the premises aren’t compelling, just the writing. William Gibson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury start their stories well enough, but then there’s a problem with the prose. It just plods on, as if science fiction publishers and readers only care about the premise and sleep through the rest. Many of the vaunted greats of the genre – Frank Herbert’s Dune, Robert Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – all fall into the same black hole.Some books do have decent literary moments, such as Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris or Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.However it remains a struggle to get through all of the background science stuff – histories of planets, theories of evolution – all of it jammed in like a manual. Science fiction, it would seem, is like sports: a lot of frightfully dull banter, and only every once in a while worth the wait.
I was cold and afraid. It was too big or I was. I leaned forward to get my sense back and banged my cast against the gunwale. The sound echoed back, low, like the closing of a door, and the white wall went out of focus and I blinked to make it clear and it was broken, the spires gone, what looked so small and distant, and dissolved like a monster into the water, splintering in a massive rush, dissolved like snow. Part of the other side slipped off too and another shelf, each part vanishing into the water. It spat back up in a lurch of bright blue and ice, rushing out of the darkness right at us. My head was empty, my hands balled tight. Ray ran in a short heavy stride to the cabin.
“Take that, b’ys.” Charlie slid the oars to Fitz and Tommy, and they dug them through the water, hardly moving the boat. Another section of the iceberg rose up out of the water, dripping, and collapsed. The vibration of it came up through the water into the boat’s floorboards, a humming, hollow and deep, a pure force, and then a rising in the water, a vast dark thing, coming toward the boat. Ray couldn’t get the boat to start, and as much as everyone was doing, scrambling and pushing and turning, banging, no one spoke. The silence was louder as the wave rolled up to the bow, Apollo and I there, and pulled us up, higher, steadily to the top and back down again. The second wave was bigger. We couldn’t see what was left of the iceberg now, everything gone, and I was almost panicked, thinking it was too high and we would go under. We rose up, the stern coming up past us, shards of ice at the bottom of the next wave. I stepped back with it, thinking it was easy now, and lost my balance as the third wave came, almost as big, and my foot was sliding out and I was fine with that, and would have hit my head against the bench if Fitz hadn’t caught my arm and put me back on the bench. “That’s 10,000 years old,” he said. “It was snowing 10,000 years back and then it got all packed and floated down here. 10,000 years of history that is, before the Vikings, before the Romans, before the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Incas, the Mayans, everybody. People had just got out of the caves and begun the farming then.”
I have always been enticed by the chase scene, dreaming of one day making a film that is a relentless series of chases from beginning to end.
Bullitt (1968) with Steve McQueen
Chase scenes require ingenuity and detail and are, like science fiction films, frequently a letdown. That said, there are a few great chase scenes, like the 1968 film Bullitt that stand above the rest.
5. Midnight Express (Alan Parker, 1979) Billy Hayes is arrested for drug smuggling in 1970s Turkey and tries to escape police in an Istanbul marketplace. This chase scene utilizes the basics – music, crowds, close-ups – effectively, creating a genuine tension that is hard to achieve.
4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou(Wes Anderson, 2004) A homage/parody of Jacques Cousteau’s exploits. This rescue scene from the pirates is unforgettable specifically for its subtelty in music and camera angles.
3. The French Connection (1971, William Friedkin) New York cop Popeye Doyle battles drug dealers. Many aspects of this film are dated; however the iconic chase scene will never go out of date.
2. Terminator III: Rise of the Machines (Jonathan Mostow, 2003) The third installment of the franchise that documents machines coming back in time to kill a future revolutionary hero. The chase scene between an industrial crane and fire truck is notable for its epic destruction – including a crushed bouncy playpen – and its consistent sense of humor.
1. Ronin (John Frakenheimer, 1998) Professional crooks chase after each other through France to secure a briefcase with a secret. The car chase goes through Paris and features a remarkable sense of detail – securing a seat belt halfway through the mayhem – as well as unmatched tension when it crosses lanes and goes the wrong way onto the highway.
The boat circled below the island with the sun setting over the broken horizon, the clouds going after it, pulling each other together in the red and blue. There was a pool with bright blue chlorinated water like in Florida, so square and odd in the back of the boat, the river water gushing past. I sat in the corner looking at Crystal with her back to everyone, looking at the city, her elbows poking out, under the 59th Street Bridge and looking up at the dark mass, the dirt and cables, the shadows of the cars and trucks, and sank into how almost safe and eerie it was. Lisa was in the pool and singing to Chumbawamba, delighted in herself, drinking shots, and laughing convulsively, doubling over and then trying to get out of the pool and throwing up and almost going over, and then crying, Ian holding her and then their mother, and it was sad and worse how separated I was from it and didn’t care. I watched the boat turning the corner, going into the Harlem River and seeing the city, the steep hill up into the Harlem, how green and wild it looked, and then the Bronx on the other side, flat dull and grey, highways and warehouses and nothing else and then Yankee Stadium, as dull and grey as everything else.