Voices in my Head
Some of what I've been watching, reading, and listening to of late.
After a gruelingly weird travel day, we made it to Tbilisi, Georgia — a place I probably didn’t know existed two years ago. I think I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand when I first started hearing about Tbilisi from digital nomad types who were talking about what a cool city this is, and how welcoming Georgia is to foreigners. You get a one-year visa upon entry (most passports). It’s relatively inexpensive, I was told, the people are friendly, the food’s good, and the city is funky and safe. So far (48 hours), I’d say that checks out. I’ll update you as I get a better sense of things here. If anyone reading this has been here and has tips of what to do, where to go, whom to meet, etc., please leave your tips in the comments.
The trip from Arusha, Tanzania began with a midnight flight to Dar es Salaam, where we waited til 5am for our flight to Istanbul, which arrived almost two hours late, which meant that we’d missed our tight connection to Tbilisi, so we had to wait for another midnight flight. Turkish Airlines put us up on a very strange hotel in an amusement park, but after all the paperwork and waiting and two hours in the van from/to the airport, we only really had time to take a quick nap and head back to stand in lines again. So many lines!
Both times I’ve flown out of Istanbul on this trip (to Barcelona a couple of months ago), we’ve been questioned and searched intensely. It seems they’re looking for money, as they pulled books out of our bags and leafed through them. Not looking for drugs or weapons, but paper. I think the war must have lots of people flying around from Istanbul with stacks of cash.
Anyway, here are a few films I’ve seen recently, and some thoughts about them.
Those of you who know me are already thinking, “Chris, why would you watch something like this?” Good question. Honestly, there was a convergence of three factors that conspired to put me in that red velvet seat, overpriced popcorn in hand:
I’ve sometimes found it interesting to watch dumb American movies in bizarre locations, and Arusha, Tanzania certainly qualifies.
The AIM mall, where the film was playing also houses what reviewers on Google maps say is “The best brewery in Tanzania,” so I thought, “Good beer and a bad movie… It’s a wash.”
The whole idea occurred to me after watching Russell Brand’s glowing review of the film, in which he credited it with being an unexpectedly nuanced expression of America’s changing role in global geopolitics.
Conclusion: The beer was bad and the movie was worse. To call it “formulaic” is an insult to formulas. To say it’s made from a recipe book is an insult to Betty Crocker. To call it “a film” is an insult to celluloid. It’s just a long, boring, intelligence-insulting advertisement for testosterone, technology and Tom. With the glaring exceptions of his performances in Magnolia and Tropic Thunder, I’ve never seen any appeal in Mr. Cruise. In other words, Tom Cruise only makes sense to me when he’s making fun of Tom Cruise (something I admire him for doing) by screaming “You must respect the cock,” or doing a pimp-dance with prosthetic forearms and a chest toupée. When he’s doing his earnest, well-meaning, slightly rebellious but ultimately totally buying into how great America is thing (which is his thing), count me out.
George Carlin’s American Dream
George Carlin was kind of a father figure for me (and millions of other people). He was born a few months before my actual father, both were raised and educated as working class Irish Catholics in the 40s and 50s, both lost their faith in their teens, both were deeply intelligent and sensitive men who absolutely loved words, both were married to women they met very young and adored sincerely til death do they part, and both ultimately had their hearts broken by the growing chasm between the world as it could/should be and the world as it is.
My dad brought home Carlin’s “Class Clown” album when I was ten years old and laughed his ass off with me listening to Carlin making fun of the hypocrisy of people trying to control language. (“You can prick your finger, but don’t finger your prick!”) Like Carlin, my dad was a rebel who could never forgive the priests for having misled him into believing so much bullshit when he was a child (but who, also like Carlin, viewed the world through a God-shaped window his whole life).
Unlike Carlin, my dad never quite freed himself from the suit and tie (largely, I think, because he already had wife, kids, and mortgage locked into place before the idea ever occurred to him), but despite Carlin’s hippy-dippy approach to his job and my dad’s corner office, both of them were at war with the suits. In my dad’s case, the struggle was with the other executives who were more committed to “playing the game” than he was. In Carlin’s case, it was the FCC, IRS, and network executives trying to reign him in.
Amazingly, I had the chance to hang out with Kelly Carlin, George’s daughter, a few years before my dad died. I think it made him happy to know that he and George had finally “met,” even if it was years after George had died and it was via their kids.
George Carlin was the Shakespeare of comedy. If you follow my work at all, you can probably hear George’s voice popping up here and there in both my books, mixed in with my dad’s and my own — at least, I hope so.
Ford vs Ferrari
I like Matt Damon and Christian Bale as actors, but this movie was just as one dimensional and dumb as I feared it would be. I watched it at cruising altitude, where the low pressure and oxygen depletion normally makes me more forgiving, but even at that height, with those actors, this was just another movie about inflated male egos overcoming the odds, meaningless car races, and…. Ah, who the fuck cares? If a movie has more than a dozen close up shots of a foot pushing on the gas pedal and a hand shifting gears, it’s officially a dumb fucking movie, far as I’m concerned.
Hope you’re doing well.
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