The theoretical lionheart.

While we’re on the bummer theme, let’s get this out of the way: Saw United 93 the other night, and watched the credits roll with mixed feelings. The simple truth is: This is a beautifully written and shot movie about an almost unbearably painful event absolutely no one wants to see. I was enormously impressed, and I never want to see it again.

But I’m glad this movie is out there, and that it sets a few bars, including the most important one: We really don’t know what happened up there. We know some things, but they’re just flash frames; the whole movie went down with the plane, along with anyone who saw it. It was easy to fear, in the anguished, crazy time after 9/11, that the first films made about the tragedy would have highly partisan narratives that would push one version of events over another. “United 93” doesn’t do that. No one stands up and says, “Let’s roll!” and leads the group to a gallant death. It looks, in its no-recognizable-actors way, very much like news footage.

And, if you’ve ever been through a remarkable event, it has the feel of truth. The passengers never act like Bruce Willis in the “Die Hard” movies; they look about to piss themselves from fright, even when they’re being as brave as people can be. And in the last minutes, when the cockpit door has been battered down and the final struggle is taking place, no one man or woman steps forward to be the hero — all we see are a dozen different hands, all straining to get to the controls, before the camera turns to see the view from the windshield. The world turns upside down, and the ground rushes up to meet everyone. The end.

“I bet you’d have been one of those guys,” I told Alan afterward.

“One never knows,” he said.

No, one doesn’t. Really, one doesn’t. We all like to think we’d be brave, but we don’t know until we know, and by then it’s a little late to argue. Of course, it’s never too late for right-wing morons to star in their own little imaginary movie:

Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn’t anyone rush the guy? It’s not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness’ sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren’t very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can’t hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren’t bad.

Yes, at the very least, “count the shots,” such a natural response when the door to your classroom swings open and a madman walks in, guns blazing. And check out the ballistics report from a guy who hasn’t been any closer to a real firefight than a TV screen. I know I said I wasn’t going to read any of this stuff, but sometimes it just jumps in front of you.

So, to the bloggage:

Jack Shafer’s defense of pushy reporters is good enough, but he had me at this passage:

The gold standard for journalistic insensitivity was established in the 1960s by an unnamed British TV reporter who was trawling for news at a Congo airport. According to foreign correspondent Edward Behr’s 1978 memoir, the Brit walked through the crowd of terrified Belgian colonials who were evacuating, and shouted, “Anyone here been raped and speaks English?”

I doubt I’ll ever cover breaking news again, but if I do, I’m going to use that line. You know, just for laughs.

Yours truly had another radio essay on the air yesterday, on “Detroit Today,” on WDET, our (what else?) public station. Find it here. Requires QuickTime, etc. The edit isn’t precise, so when it goes to music at about two-thirds through, it’s over. The producer didn’t trim the music; probably too busy. One of these days I’ll get out QT Pro and do a nice fade-out, but for now, bandwidth hog it shall remain.

We had a family discussion/argument about split peas the other day, over, what else, a dinner of split-pea soup — I made the last pot of the season, using up the remnants of the Easter ham and banishing these maddeningly slow-to-exit chilly days. Never mind the specifics of the argument; I will end up looking particularly stupid, and besides, I contend that I never suggested split peas were separated by hard-working immigrants using tiny vises, chisels and hammers, only that the so-called split pea is not a separate species from the green pea found in Green Giant cans and pods in the grocery store.

News flash: It is indeed a different animal. Ahem:

field pea
A variety of yellow or green pea grown specifically for drying. These peas are dried and usually split along a natural seam, in which case they’re called split peas.
Source: epicurious

But as frequently happens to the curious, epi- and otherwise, the research led me down half a dozen paths of delight, including that of Pea Soup Andersen’s, a legendary bit of California kitsch that appears to be the Frankenmuth of the west coast. Anyway, one of these days I’m going to make it out there for a visit, as I love pea soup in all its incarnations. I’m sure LA Mary knows the owner, and can arrange a kitchen tour.

And now, I remind you that split peas are a high-fiber food, and combined with two cups of coffee — whoa, gotta go. Later!

Posted at 8:51 am in Media, Movies, Same ol' same ol' |

23 responses to “The theoretical lionheart.”

  1. alex said on April 18, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Pea Soup Andersen’s — I never thought I’d hear of it again. In the summer of ’76 my family took a long vacation in northern California and we kept going back to that place because the food was superb. Who would have thought anyone could get excited about pea soup, especially a family with little kids?

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  2. Peter said on April 18, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Oh my god, I don’t believe it – we just came back yesterday from a run down Calfiornia 1/US 101 and we passed by the place! All three of us saw the sign about the Birthplace of Split Pea Soup and we were totally unimpressed – had we known!

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  3. John said on April 18, 2007 at 10:12 am

    My wife spoils me with wintertime treats of split pea and lentil soups. Yum Yum! That’s the kind of meal that warms you up and sticks to your ribs.

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  4. John said on April 18, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Just saw this:
    “I think that people who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and make it their political hobby horse to ride … I’ve got nothing but loathing for them,” Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said. “To those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere.”

    JHC! Could we get pols and pundits to agree to do this forever about everything?

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  5. nancy said on April 18, 2007 at 10:22 am

    A very, very wise, learned woman who still looks incredibly young for her age — yes [blushes modestly], I believe it was moi — once wrote:

    I was a columnist and I remember 9/11, and I’m willing to forgive an awful lot of the crap that was said and written in the aftermath. We all went a little crazy. But I thought then, and I think now, that if you’re willing to climb to the top of a pile of 3,000 of your countrymen’s corpses to advance your stupid social agenda, you are beneath contempt.

    Do I get a prize?

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  6. brian stouder said on April 18, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Do I get a prize?

    If I’m ever the judge, yes!

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  7. ashley said on April 18, 2007 at 11:19 am

    By the way, they sell Anderson’s in cans, in case you can’t make it out there.

    Derbyshire is a putz. Too bad Bruce Lee isn’t around to kick his ass. Again.

    “Count the shots.” Yep, Tex, all we got ’round these parts are six-shooters. Or maybe he can tell the difference by sound between a Glock 19 and a Glock 21.

    “A very, very wise, learned woman who still looks incredibly young for her age”. Busty. You forgot “Busty”.

    I know I didn’t. ;^)

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  8. brian stouder said on April 18, 2007 at 11:40 am

    never overlook the bust

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  9. nancy said on April 18, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    I like the line, “Handguns aren’t very accurate, even at close range.” Huh? What the hell does that mean? Oh, wait, he explains: “I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can’t hit squat.” Behold the reasoning: You should rush a guy firing two handguns, because they aren’t very accurate. I know this because I’m a bad marksman. Monday-morning quarterbacks are one thing, but this is in a whole different league.

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  10. 4dbirds said on April 18, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Your typical American teen who plays video games has hundreds to thousands of hours of marksmanship training under his belt whether he knows it or not. That, a very troubled person and the fact that modern handguns ARE accurate can make for the tragedy at VT. Being a good shot isn’t hard. I scored expert each and every time I had to qualify on my weapon (first a Colt 45 then a Baretta 9mm) when I served in the military. That isn’t bragging, it’s just an acknowlegement to good training and good sidearms. Some of that training was video simulation.

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  11. brian stouder said on April 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Hey – ring the bell for Fort Wayne native intelligence and wisdom.

    At lunch today I changed the channel from Pammy’s movie on Lifetime (she had fallen asleep) to MSNBC, and there was a lunatic woman arguing that university students should be allowed to pack heat at school!! I was quite literally groaning as I fumbled for the remote – at that point the Lifetime movie was looking like a better choice – and then I heard a familiar, reassuring voice of reason.

    Looking up, who do I see on a nationwide satellite tv punditry yell-fest? None other than good ol’ Mayor Helmke, there in his capacity as a gun control advocate from the Brady group. And the mayor maintained an even tone, and ignored the loud interruptions and incessant yammering of the boorish lunatic; basically flattening her with succinct, on-point common sense (one great bit was when he said something like ‘here’s three reasons not to arm college-age students: hormones, alcohol, and stress)

    maybe the whole world isn’t completely insane, afterall

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  12. Marcia said on April 18, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Yes, you get a prize. I didn’t know about the busty thing, though, since we didn’t get to meet. : (

    I felt exactly the same about United 93. I picked it up at Blockbuster when they were having one of those used DVD sales, and after I watched it I gave it away, because I knew I’d never watch it again. No need.

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  13. joodyb said on April 18, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    i came here specifically to see if i anyone had heard Helmke today, wondering what the deal was on him, wondering what the response in the comments would be. my ears went up at the mention of Ft. Wayne, of course.

    the programming children of depression babies endure! i’ve been eying the easter hambone and thus dragged out the bag of lentils this ayem. i have enough in my larder for quite the pot de feu: 10 pearl onions, 8 leftover baby red potatoes (tho at this point they are more like teens, i spose) half a pound of fresh green beans and brown rice. oh, and some fresh thyme and chives and parsley. any other suggestions?

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  14. michaelj said on April 18, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    That well-regulated militia the NRA thinks justifies some New Wild West, let the aholes takes their asses to Baghdad and put down terrism before it follows us home.

    People don’t think this self-grandioose bullshit connects with putting a sock in it and landing on an aircraft carrier, well, the Scottie dog might have pissed in their ear when the pretzel knocked their ass out. And we need to monitor library borrowing but the Tejas legislature thinks the identity of secret packers should be sacrosanct.

    I’ve got an idea that it’s easier to ascribe evil to a venal invasion for profit than to some clearly nutso guy in Blacksburg. And to the wackjob lobbyists that didn’t just arm him, they gave him a 31-shot clip. The 31-shot clip was a bouquet from the administration to the NRA, and a repudiation of the Brady Act. For what reason? Can some gun nut explain this? I suppose, if his fellow students had also had the banana clips…And if it takes 31 shots to bring down Bambi, should you be trusted with a gun? So we actually want you in our militia?

    But I suppose somebody pretty clearly nuts still has his Second Amendment Rights, even though they’re about as real as the voices telling him to pull the trigger.

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  15. brian stouder said on April 18, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    regarding United 93, or that Nicholas Cage movie – or pretty much any of the others – I don’t plan on ever watching them.

    I remember when I was maybe 15 years old, yapping with our neighbor across the street about some Second World War movie I had seen, and she matter-of-factly told me she never watches any of those movies; she lived through those days, read the newspapers, lost friends and loved ones – and didn’t need to see it.

    I “get” that now; it is how I feel about 9/11 movies. I’ll read non-fiction books on the subject, but pass on some Hollywood star-turn treatment (thinking of the Cage movie here….although Pammy and our 11 year old son watched that movie, and were impressed by it)

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  16. John said on April 19, 2007 at 7:45 am

    For those still pondering the bust thing.

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  17. nancy said on April 19, 2007 at 7:56 am

    You bad boy. Interesting trivia: The person sitting next to me in that photo is the richest person I’ve ever known personally. Heiress to two vast Midwestern fortunes. Had one of those upper east side apartments where the elevator opened onto her front door, and no other. (The front door was left open all the time. She never carried keys. Her neighbors were other people like her, and security was the doorman’s job.) A fun girl, but had a bit of a drinking problem.

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  18. John said on April 19, 2007 at 8:06 am

    I am a bad boy and enjoy sophomoric humor, so sue me! Hey, I can’t help it if you are good looking and very funny (but not so much modest, you know?). By the way, I am older than you (who will hit the big one later this year) and clearly have entered into my DOM stage of life.

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  19. LA mary said on April 19, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t know any of the pea soup Andersens. I’ve eaten in the Buellton and San Diego branches, and my kids loved the soup there even as toddlers.
    United 93 was a great movie, and the lack of action stars and cowboys had a lot to do with that. Why do people have to cowboy it up? That woman who copyrighted the phrase, “let’s roll,” aaargh. My kids were completely silent during the whole movie, which is rare. Usually Pete will decide to report skateboarding adventures in real time when I’m watching something intently.

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  20. Bill B. said on April 19, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    From Pea Soup’s website “We specialize in freshly baked pastries that will please your pallet.”………..Back up the fork lift, I’m gettin’ some……

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  21. Ricardo said on April 19, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    LA Mary, Andersens is Buellton, north of Santa Barbara. I’ve been to Buellton and Frankenmuth, one is Danish, one German. Buellton also has Danish bakeries other than Andersens. There used to be a Frankenmuth Beer. I wonder if they still make it or revived the name now that micro-breweries are back in style.

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  22. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I meant I didn’t know any members of the Andersen family. I know the restaurants.

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  23. MaryC said on April 20, 2007 at 11:30 am

    These blowhards who fantasize about taking the gunman down make me think of an exchange I had in a Law & Order Usenet group. The episode we were discussing had a similar scenario – students gunned down by a single gunman – based, I think, on Marc Lepine’s rampage at the Ecole Polytechnic in Montreal.

    One of the posters made the usual claim that if the students and bystanders had been armed, they could have taken out the gunman and saved lives. Here’s the thing – as we discussed the episode, this guy had all of the details wrong. Whether or not the cops were already on the scene when the shooting started, how many victims there were – all that. Here’s a guy who’s sitting comfortably in front of the TV watching a cop show and expecting to see mayhem. And he still doesn’t know what it was that he saw.

    I asked him what if, assuming that he was there and that he and everyone else were armed, he saw someone running past him with a gun. And then he saw someone else running past him with a gun, chasing the first person. Which one is the killer and which one is the student? Which one does he shoot? And how does he handle the manslaughter charge and the family’s lawsuit when he shoots the wrong guy? And while he’s shooting, which other panicky bystander will be aiming at him? I never did get an answer as I recall

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