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Monthly Archives: January 2013

It Bears Repeating.

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In light of this, the right to fight, I say this……….again.

Originally Posted:  May 10, 2011

We’ve all been asked what our top 10 movies are, right? While mine sometimes change depending on my mood or the barometric pressure, the following have consistently rotated in and out of that Top 10:

  • Braveheart
  • Jaws
  • Star Wars
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • The Godfather, Parts I & II
  • True Romance
  • Aliens

First let me say I think it’s entirely possible I was a man in a past-life, and an aggressive, swashbuckling, womanizing one at that. But I digress.

If I look at just the movies above I ask myself what they all have in common?

  • Central alpha-male figures? Check.
  • Central alpha-male figures fighting against an alpha-male foe? Check. (I’m making the assumption that the shark in Jaws was a male. I will call him “Buddy”. And Nurse Ratched, well, Louise Fletcher created such an indelibly strong, frightening, gender-neutral character that at the very least she was the personification of “The Man”).

So they all have those things in common except….”Aliens”.

“Aliens”. Has there ever been a more kick-ass, archetypal, hell-hath-no-fury female character in film in recent memory? I think not. There have been attempted copy-cats, sure…but none that got is as right as Sigourney Weaver’s Oscar nominated performance as Ellen Ripley did in “Aliens”.

What fascinates me about Weaver’s portrayal of Ripley is she managed to bridge the gap between feminine and masculine power until you forgot the gender stereotypes, and with ease fit into the role of Earth-mother defending her child with the iron-will and steely courage of an unwitting soldier . And all the while….she looked damned sexy doing it.

The reason “Aliens” as a sequel worked so well is that it was no longer just an epic battle between humans and acid-blooded, 15 foot tall cockroaches with detachable, snapping jaws (ugh…still one of the scariest villains in moviedom if you ask me), but because this was a human woman fighting to keep her “adopted” daughter from dying in the clutches of the alien…and the alien, as luck would have it, was ALSO a mother defending her children…er…larvae. So you have all the action and suspense of a sci-fi thriller with the added bonus of watching the most epic of battles: two females defending the creatures within their care.

Remember Ripley’s line when she was in that gigantic robot-suit right before she deep-sixed the alien mother: “Get away from her you BITCH!” I mean, come ON…who doesn’t love a good bitch-slap???

I was thinking the other day about soldiers. Not famous ones like in the movies that I mentioned above, just grunts, troops. Just your average, every-day people who fight the wars that we’ve either told them to by drafting them, or asked them to fight with a pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top. People who go in and fight for the safety and security and well-being and national interests of people they’ve never met, on the orders of still other people they’ve never met. And all of those brave troops who actually fight in combat are only…men.

Why is that?

Has our testosterone-infused government establishment never SEEN “Aliens”?

I know, people, I know…Ripley is not a real person. And neither is the giant, phallic-headed cockroach alien (that we know of…), so I will clarify my question.

Um…just what IS the justification for not having female combat soldiers in the U.S. military?

I’m not a proponent of war. Not by a liberal-longshot. But again, I’m no pacifist. I simply believe that war of any kind should commence only when there is absolutely no other fucking option to protect the masses of innocents. When war, however, is warranted, why can’t a woman fight alongside a man?

Is it because we get our “monthlies”, our “friends” and that would make for an un-sanitary working environment? Because, you know, everyone knows how sterile and sanitary field barracks, and encampments and port-a-potties-if-you’re-lucky and ditches and caves and such are. If soldiers can carry around hand-held GPS’s, they can carry around some Tampax.

Is it because we’re emotionally unpredictable and emotionally fragile; that we can’t take the heat when we’re not in the kitchen? Riiiggghhht. Because everyone knows that while you’re in the heat of battle a woman would surely opt-out of the most hard-wired and primal of animal instincts which is to LIVE, and instead opt-IN for the lesser-known of the primal instincts which is to die while collapsed on her knees in the rubble, head in hands, shedding big, blubbery tears.

Is it because we’re…weak…physically in comparison to men? Now on this point I do not argue the merit itself; women, in most cases, are NOT as physically strong as men. But are we talking about one-on-one duels, here? Are we talking about a prison-yard scene from a B-movie in which the two opponents are encircled by the rest of the chanting group and made to fight to-the-death, or at the very least…to the shame?

Let’s face it, the list of reasons that women are given for not being allowed to engage in combat is a mile long: we’d distract the men with our feminine wiles (sorry, now that DADT has been technically eradicated – FINALLY – the issue of enticement shouldn’t hold water in terms of women/men either), we’re not courageous enough and too cautious (sorry, I’m here to tell you that courage has nothing to do with testes)…and ohhhhhh, just not enough time for the rebuttals to the faux-justifications.

In the end, hard-core military traditionalists, and well…most men… will tell you simply that a woman doesn’t harbor the necessary aggression, stamina and mental fortitude to fight in battle for the love of country. It’s not “in us”. Or to put it succinctly, “Dude…you’re a GIRL!” To those people I say: Have you ever actually seen a woman fight for someone she cares for? Someone she loves? Her honor? Her child? Would you ever want to be on the receiving end of her wrath, especially when that woman is armed with an AK-47 or a grenade launcher? Would you??

Women are nurturers by nature. I believe this to be true. It is not in our nature to voluntarily commit to harm others, regardless of the reasons.

But let me tell you this: love of country’s got nothing on love of family, of child, of personal honor. Look, women should rule the world. That is a given. War and all of its atrocities would eventually cease to exist in that scenario (another post for another day)…so let’s take baby steps.

You put a woman out there on the front lines, a nurturer – and I don’t give a damn what she’s the nurturer of back home: a child, a cat, a parrot, a goat or a plant – and she will fight like a man.

She’ll give new meaning to the term bitch-fight.

Seriously. “Aliens”. Just consider adding it to your Top 10.

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Dissonance.

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It was my favorite kind of day in Chicago. Sweatshirt and shorts weather, the perfect combination. Like chocolate covered pretzels – just sort of perfect in its dissonance. I knew when I woke up that morning I would call in sick to work. I was not sick.

It was 1997.

I did not know what I wanted to do that day, only that it was a morning I simply could not allow the same routine to exist.

I laid in my bed trying very hard not to allow the creeping feeling of guilt to lie on the pillow beside me. I instead allowed the just-fuck-it side of me to yawn and stretch and wake up. I said Hi! It’s about time you showed up, and I left a voice mail for my boss with some thinly veiled reference to things coming out of both ends of me…must have been something I ate…I should feel better tomorrow.

I lived alone. I sat up wishing I had a destination but was motivated to get up despite not having one.

I could tell through my curtains it was hazy outside, cloudy. And cooler than it was warm. This was good. I did not want the pressure of having to do something typical on a beautiful, exceedingly warm nearly Fall day such as ride a bike along the lakefront.

I stood up and got a head rush and waited for it to pass. I almost never wore my robe. But this morning I closed my bedroom door and took it off the hook. It was green, emerald-green. It is still green and I sometimes still wear it, but that was maybe the 5th time I’d ever put it on. It felt so nice and warm, and then I slipped on my slippers.

Taking probably seven steps I was standing in the middle of my living room. No noise except the vague sounds of traffic outside. I wished, deeply, that I drank coffee because that would have been the first destination. But I don’t drink coffee and never have. It sucks to not drink coffee, I thought to myself.

So I peed instead. No, man, not on the living room floor. I managed to get to the toilet. As I sat on the cold seat I thought, smelling coffee or bacon right now would be nice.

Done, I went to my refrigerator. Which was at the back end of my very long clothes closet. Which was of course just off the kitchen. So acceptable was this peculiarity in my 20’s.

Diet Pepsi was my poison, my caffeine. It is still so awesome. I opened a can and started to drink and took a step back.

The nice thing about having your refrigerator in your closet is that you can stand and stare at both and think…everything in here sucks, and have it apply to both your clothes and your food.

I made a slight belching sound and shivered at the coldness running down into my stomach.

I moved a box of crackers to get to a pair of my shorts. Then reached overhead and moved a box of stage makeup I’d had since high school to get at the comfy grey sweatshirt with no logos or words on it.

I took those and my poison and schlepped into the bathroom and got undressed. I started the shower while simultaneously brushing my teeth. I had to run the cold in the sink to ensure the hot in the shower would stay hot for longer than three minutes. I honestly have no idea if this was a factual cause and effect. But it happened once, and so I continued to do it for luck. My shower water needs to be just shy of scalding.

It was a big claw-foot tub that you almost needed a step stool to get into, and like every morning I showered I prayed, please don’t let me die getting into this thing because that would be a shitty and embarassing way to go.

While washing my hair I had two epiphanies: 1. I wasn’t even hung over and really wanted an Egg McMuffin. And 2. I was going to walk around my neighborhood and take pictures all day.

I was taking a photography class during this timeframe and I was suddenly excited that I had found the perfect justification for this day of hookie.

I rushed through my shower. I put my utilitarian underwear and bra on, khaki shorts and grey sweatshirt and blow-dried my long hair into a screaming knot. Instead of brushing it out in clumps I threw it up in a clip. A little makeup. Very little. Some blush and my ever-present lip gloss.

I was moving quickly now with purpose. Back into the hunger-closet to get my backpack. And then into the barely there little corner storage thingy in my bedroom to get my camera.

I opened the bag and began flipping through all the unused rolls of film. Yes, film. Film. The stuff Kodak used to make. Do they still make it?

Black and white. Sweet and salty.  Black and white.

I took two rolls. One Fuji and one Kodak, because I had just learned the difference between the two. I’m sure it was some subtly profound difference – but I couldn’t tell you now if you paid me.

I loaded the camera with the Fuji. I guess because it felt more exotic and leant itself to the possibility of something really cool happening. Fiji. Fuji. It’s how my mind works.

Shoved some crackers and keys in my bag, and walked quickly to the door. I banged my knee into the door jamb having not taken into account the backpack also needing to get through the opening.

Motherfuckkkkkkker, I whispered.

People had to go to work, after all, and I didn’t want to wake the poor bastards up. Skin was torn away from my knee but not bleeding so I slammed the door behind me to vent my anger.  Wow, so loud. I might as well have yelled MOTHERFUCKER at the top of my lungs.

I decided to walk North onto Broadway toward the not as nice part of my neighborhood and meander around in concentric circles from there. I had no idea if I would find anything which would be worthy of my Fuji. But there were some things. There were.

I stopped at Graceland Cemetery.  Cemeteries are usually beautiful to me and this famous one was no exception.  Through a chain-link fence bordering off construction I focused my paltry 35 mm lens on a tombstone.  Frankenstein.  That’s all it said.  Frankenstein.

A beautiful old church was being shredded apart with a wrecking ball, but the entire stained glass wall behind the altar stood alone.

Two ancient men smoking pipes and speaking to each other in what I assume was Polish.

A mobile HIV testing van.

And more, all worthy of my fictional gastrointestinal issues.

But I cannot find those pictures.

I have one.

The chain locked doors of a Pentacostal church which oddly held only evening services according to a sign on the lawn.  Two comically goliath doors were chained together.  Trying to keep the sinners out or keep them locked in?  From a half block away the wooden doors loomed absolutely black in color, shaded by an ornate archway, with the chains barely visible in the muted sun.

I knew the shot I wanted but it would not be easy to get on my manual camera.  It was a long exposure with no tripod.  I needed to hold very, uncharacteristically still.  I set my F-stop, adjusted whosas and whatsits, took a deep breath and held it in, then clicked the shutter three times.

Film.  There was no instant gratification.  No immediate affirmation of a job well or poorly done.  I waited over a week to get my photographs back from the developer.

It turned out exactly as I had hoped.

They were all worth it.

The Egg McMuffin was salty.

This, though, was my sweetest thing.

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