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Archive for October, 2013

Occasionally, I set out watching a movie with the expectation that it is going to be awful, and then discover that it really was entertaining.  This was one such film.

I can hear some of you now…”But Blackiswhite, it’s about vampires and the Civil War!  That’s ridiculous!”

And my head is nodding yes, but let me remind you of something.  The title is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Suspension of disbelief is just part of the package when you sit down to watch it, don’t you think?

Honestly, despite the fact that the script had very few “A-ha” moments, and you marvel at the main character’s inability to see something that was right before him all along, the story managed to stay engaging, due in large part to the portrayal of Lincoln by Benjamin Walker as a talented, yet not overly bright rail-splitter turned vampire hunter who louses up his first opportunity to dispatch the vampire who killed his mother years earlier, and is saved, then tutored by Henry Sturges (played by an amused Dominic Cooper) in the ways of killing the nightstalkers without ending up an entrée.  We then see Mr. Lincoln blaze a bloody trail through twilight Springfield, Illinois, until he captures the attention of “Adam”, so-called because he is the “oldest of us”, brilliantly played by Rufus Sewell, who stole the movie in an exchange with the young Mr. Lincoln while he had him at a disadvantage.  I won’t reveal too much, but the money quote was part of that exchange, in which Adam looks down on a struggling Abe, and gives him a taste of his own perception of human nature, built on an immortal’s experience.

“May I share with you one of the revelations of my five thousand years?  We are all slaves to something.  I, to eternity, you to your convictions, others to the color of their skin. “

It went on, but this struck me as an honest nugget of truth about the human condition, presented in a manner far more subtle than I have come to expect from Hollywood.

The movie, and Abe’s life progressed after this, giving a very sinister undertone to the Civil War, and an alternate take on the bloodshed of Gettysburg, and the steps taken by Lincoln and his friends to address this new threat that brought him out of his retirement from vampire hunting, and into a genuine climax, and the necessary denouement which is so often lacking in many modern films.

In closing, don’t expect Oscar-caliber performances, although Rufus Sewell played the arch-villain with an undeniable flair that also managed to not be heavy-handed.  Frankly, his performance alone made the film worth watching, but a fun script and interesting dialogue helped the film considerably.  It’ll never make my top 20, but I wasn’t cursing the fact that I wouldn’t get the rental fee and the hour and forty-five minutes back either.  I call that a win.

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“All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.” —Mahatma Gandhi

So I’ve been listening to the Republican Party’s more “enlightened” and “moderate” voices over the last year.  To say I am unimpressed with a strategery that says it’s ok to call voters “Hobbits” and their preferred candidates and elected officials “wacko birds” would be putting it mildly.

But when the elected officials who are willing to compromise and accept the permanence of a unprecidented” and “historic” expansion of government (repeal and replace) everyone, and are willing to let legislation that cannot be squared with the Constitution’s enumerated powers, and the Bill of Rights’ strict prohibitions on the infringement of rights by government with mushy promises that they will fight “next time”, and that they “do something” when they have the Senate and the White House, when history shows us that there was little in evidence to differentiate them the last time when they had both, I get the disgust evident among the “hobbits” of the country because I share it.

I reject the notion that Congress is so “complex” and difficult that we need to keep electing the same people.  I reject the notion that these “experts” just understand the issues better than we do…a notion that is difficult to accept given the fact that so many of them admit to not reading what they vote on, but even if it is true, that is a better reason to replace them, since they seem to be ok with this being the status quo, and of course, the power that comes with it.

But most of all, I am disgusted with the willingness to accept a generous taxpayer subsidy, sheltering them from onerous effects of what they chose for us, and the scorn and derision that they heaped on their members who were willing to stand and fight for the fundamentals.  Compromise on ObamaDoesn’tCare doesn’t respect the Constitution.  It doesn’t respect freedom.  It doesn’t respect liberty.  And their capitulation without even bothering to fight to defend a Constitutional and ethical legislative process, will cause people’s deaths. “First Do No Harm” would have been a good guiding principle for those who stood on the sidelines and muttered derisive comments about those who did something if they couldn’t stand for the other things that this doesn’t respect.  I think more than a few of them have been there long enough that they no longer can differentiate between that which can be compromised and that which is not theirs to give…or take.

I think there is a “war” going on, but if the GOP starts losing elections because of it, it won’t because of those damn, unreasonable “wacko birds” and their unreasonable unwillingness to compromise that which should never be contemplated.  It will be because the “reasonable” and “moderate” Republicans offer no substantive differences from the other party.

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Re: The Washington Redskins and the Thinskins screaming for a name change.

1. Bob Costas is obviously a frustrated Keith Olberman wannabe, who needs to stick to football and leave political commentary to the Sunday talk shows.

2. When I heard President Petulant weighing in on it this morning, I realized that having an opportunity to swing the sword of victimhood, on behalf of people who are largely not offended, rated as a much higher priority than actually accepting the GOP’s shameful surrender on Friday that would have given him his CR, with funding for ObamaDoesn’tCare, and a temporary raise in the debt ceiling. Frankly, I didn’t know whether to cry or scream…especially since the bottom of the hour news report lead with a headline screaming about “DEFAULT!!111!!!” on Thursday, despite the fact that a default isn’t necessary, since as the chief executive, he can chose to task the revenue that comes in regardless of the debt ceiling to servicing the debt and thus avoiding “DEFAULT!!!11!!!Eleventy!!11”.

But the given the particularly nasty nature of his latest temper tantrum, the headline may be right. I can see President Petulant deciding that making sure illegal immigrants getting a mint on the pillow of their taxpayer-funded beds should be a higher priority than servicing the debt.

_—————————————————————————————————————————–

 

It’s Columbus Day, a federal holiday which means that MORE than 17% percent affected by the SHUTNADO!!11!!! will be shut down. I don’t see pundits wringing their hands about this larger “interruption” of government. Or the lack of progress on Benghazi. Or the lack of frog marching administration and IRS officials over the IRS scandals. Or talking about what a crashing and criminally expensive failure the ObamaDoesn’tCare website is.

Nope. Instead, we’re all gonna die because of an inevitable and completely avoidable default on the nation’s debt because President Petulant doesn’t wanna prioritize spending.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are being lead by a 13 year old who needs to be taken over someone’s knee.

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4

Cooper walked into a sunlit kitchen, where Jake sat at a birch dining table, a half-eaten bowl of cereal and almost empty glass of orange juice in front of him.  He was listening as the doctor, Lise, spoke quietly with him.  Jake looked up and said “Dad!  They have orange juice!”  Cooper smiled and said “Cool.  But if you’re done eating, you should probably get dressed, ok?”  Jake said, Ok, Dad.” and he headed to his room, a dark suited mountie quietly in tow.  Cooper fixed his gaze on the doctor.  “Why are you spending so much time with him, Doctor?” he asked.

Doctor Lise Philips looked Cooper in the eye and said “He really is a delightful young man.”

“I’ve always thought so.  I think he’s dealt remarkably well with everything that happened to…with everything that happened.  But it doesn’t answer my question, Doctor.  Do I need to be worried about him?” asked Cooper.

“You’re already worried about him.  You just hide it remarkably well.” replied Lise.

“Can you blame me?” said Cooper.

“Not at all.  All things considered, I’m surprised you let him out of your sight.” said Lise, sipping from her own glass of orange juice.  “This is divine.  I haven’t had orange juice in a very long time.”

“Why are you spending so much time with him?” Cooper asked again.

“I’m supposed to look after your health.  That means your mental health as well.”

“So a psych eval then?”

“He’s got deep trauma.”

“Hardly surprising.”

“Yours is deeper.”

“Doctor, we hardly know each other.” Cooper admonished, his voice dripping sarcasm.

“Better than you think.  You say…interesting things in your restless sleep.”

Cooper stiffened, then sat down opposite the doctor.  “Doctor, pillow talk is for lovers.  Clinically evaluating my unguarded moments hardly seems honest or fair.  It’s kind of like finding out you’re a father before your can tell the mother you’re sterile.”

Lise smiled.  The old dossier had mentioned humor and sarcasm being part of Cooper’s way of doing things.  “Well, you wouldn’t be the most unattractive man I slept with, Mr. Wilson.”

Cooper smiled as he shook his head.  “I’m not sure that says a lot about your taste in men, Doctor.”

“The body means little if the mind isn’t interesting, Mr. Wilson.”

“It’s Cooper.  Mr. Wilson was my grandfather.  I hear myself addressed that way, I still have to fight the urge to look for him.”

“Well, if we’re going to be on a first name basis, it’s Lise, Cooper.”

Cooper poured some orange juice into the small glass before him.  “I don’t see a wedding ring, Lise.  Married to the job, or just hard finding a man who doesn’t mind that you can’t shut it off?”

Lise stared at him, the only evidence she heard him, a slight flicker in her eyes.  “I don’t see one on your hand, either.”

Cooper looked  down at the tabletop before raising his glass toward his mouth. “We used it to get over the border.  Besides, it remains in my heart.  With her.”  He took a long pull on the juice, which tasted freshly squeezed.

Lise felt guilty.  She hadn’t expected to be read so well so quickly, and purposely said something she knew would hurt the man sitting in front of her, even if the quiet dignity of his presence wouldn’t allow him to show it.  She even knew about his ring, and what he did with it, which was in a file cabinet full of files on him at the unassuming and unmarked special operations office at the National RCMP Headquarters building.  But even a small act of unnecessary cruelty offered a glimpse into the character of this man before her.  His quiet words made it clear that he didn’t need the ring to be who he was, and he would probably refuse it if it were offered to him now.  She gathered her composure and asked “Who is Rick?”

“What? he asked, looking up at her.

“Rick.  You talk about him in your sleep.  You talk about her, and your mother, and Evan, but when you are really restless, you seem to be saying Evan or Rick a lot.”

“Someone I knew a long time ago.  He’s dead now, so he doesn’t really matter.  Just another in the long list of people I knew who are dead because they knew me.”

“That’s awfully dramatic, doncha think?” a man’s voice drawled from the doorway leading to the garage.

Cooper’s head swung towards the sound of the voice.  His eyes took in the Republic of Texas uniform, and the silver oak leaves on the collar, and the smiling face of a man who died eight years prior screaming for he and Jake to run.  “What’s goin’ on, hoss?” asked Rick Gearhart.

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3

Cooper Wilson shot straight up in bed, sweat rolling in large beads down his face and along his soaking back.  In the corner of the room, Agent Smith put down the magazine he was reading.  “Were you there the entire time?” Cooper asked.

“We are tasked with having eyes on you at all times.”  There are probably more personnel in this residence than there are in many of the Ambassadorial residences here in town.” Agent Smith flatly replied.  Cooper closed his eyes.  He was convinced that Smith wasn’t the agent’s real name, and that every agent on the detail would answer to the name.  “You don’t sound happy about that.” Cooper replied.

Agent Smith’s poker face refused to budge.  “You’re an assignment.  I’m a professional.”

Cooper looked into Smith’s steely eyes.  “Be honest.  I can take it.  You’d rather not be here, am I right?”

Smith paused a minute, then turned his head slightly, his face invaded by the beginning of an expression. “I neither like you or dislike you Mr. Wilson.  I’m aware of your past.  I know how most of your family died, and believe it or not, I sympathize.  I know you’re a symbol…a bridge between the ideals of the past and the realities of your country’s present.  I know what you could mean to certain rebel factions in your country, but after your country overshadowed mine for more than a century, and in many ways dominated us culturally, I tend to view your nation’s internal strife as your business, and not ours.  There is no upside for Canada in us getting involved.”

Cooper rose, crossed the room, to where his clothes lay in a chair, and started to dress.  Neither said a word as Cooper donned his socks, his pants, his shoes, and then stood, his back to Agent Smith, buttoning his shirt.  When he finished, he crossed the room toward the door, where he put his hand on the door knob, paused, and turned back to Agent Smith.  “During that time of “overshadowing”, your family slept safe under the aegis of my country’s shadow, as we stood on guard against a threat you couldn’t have hoped to successfully defend against on your own.  For whatever the rest of our faults were during that time, that should count for a lot.  Maybe everything.  But if the “rebels”, as you call them, are eventually defeated, then you have to know that the victors will turn their attentions on you.  Still, thank you for your candor.”

Cooper turned to open the door when Agent Smith called after him “Mr. Wilson! I said I am a professional, and I meant it. If I can prevent harm from coming to you, even at the cost of my life, I WILL do it.”

Cooper shut his eyes.  “I didn’t ask for that, and I don’t want it.” he thought to himself.

He opened his eyes, walked out, and shut the door behind him, nodding to the Agent waiting outside the door who silently followed him down the hall, remaining two steps behind.

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2

Cooper pushed back an empty plate and leaned back in the chair.

“I figured you’d go for something more substantial.” said Agent Roy.

“Do you know how long it’s been since I had a salad?  Or fresh fruit?” replied Cooper.

“Awhile, if what I saw was any indication.  I’m sorry we couldn’t offer a better selection.”

“It was fine.  I missed that brown dressing.  I had it the last time I was here…well, the last time I was here in Ottawa.”

Agent Roy smiled.  He reached into his pocket, and withdrew a small, black leather book with a snap front, set it on the table, and slid it over in front of Cooper.

Cooper hesitated a moment, then picked it up and turned it over.  “Thank you for this.” he said quietly, his eyes locked on the cover.

“That’s contraband, you know.” said Agent Roy.

“Then why did you give it back?” asked Cooper.

“As I said, you are my current assignment, and I have been assigned to make you feel at home, as my superiors want you to make this your home.  At least for now.”

“Would you be doing the same with real contraband and not ideological contraband?”

“It may not be contraband for much longer.  Being the new home of the Royal Family and the head of the Anglican church, our government is aware of certain…inconsistencies…in its previous policies.  You shouldn’t be surprised if you hear about a policy reversal in the coming days.”

Cooper looked over to the wall, where a portrait of King Charles hung.  “I imagine it didn’t sit so well with some in Parliament when necessity made the Governor General and the monarch more than just a figurehead.”

“Things change.  There was some resistance.  More than a few offices had moved away from even a symbolic recognition of the monarchy.”

“Still, when they touched down at Pierson, it must have been a moment of decision for your government.”

“And some decided incorrectly.  But the Governor General managed to convince the PM that a bended knee was preferable to a rolling head.”

Cooper’s eyebrows rose at the last.  He was only dimly aware of the terrorist attack on London, and the general coup that had occurred over much of Europe, as conflicts in his own homeland were more centered in his thinking.  Finally he brought himself to ask “What happened?”

Roy shrugged his shoulders.  “British Intelligence learned that muslim extremists had acquired tactical nukes.  They just learned too late.  Charles and William were both in transit at the time.  Most of the rest of the family were at Balmoral and Buckingham.  The blasts killed them.  The Commonwealth is still fighting to regain control of England, Scotland, and Wales.  The Irish are making it almost as difficult as the mujahadin are.”

The two sat in silence for a few minutes.  Finally Cooper asked “And you?  How do you feel about being reintegrated into an Empire that let you alone for almost a century?”

Agent Roy’s eye narrowed.  “I think if it helps US get the upper hand in the clash of civilizations, I can live with it.  They are here now, but they will NOT stay.  My turn.  Why do you believe that?”  he nodded in the direction of the Bible on the table in front of Cooper.

“What do you mean?” asked Cooper.

“I mean for all your faith, your God hasn’t restored your Israel yet.”

“Have you ever read it?” asked Cooper.

“It’s contraband, as you have pointed out.”

“Thank you for the “correct” answer.  As if there is anyone I’m going to rat you out to.  Have you read it?”

Roy hesitated.  “I can’t claim to be a regular reader, but I have read it, yes.”

Cooper leaned forward.  “Then you know that when Israel was scattered in exile, that condition persisted until Israel again acknowledged and gave its allegiance to the Sovereign.  The real one, not earthly claimants of the title.  Do you see any indication of that in what was once “my Israel”, as you call it?”

Roy silently shook his head no.

“And that is why I am in exile.  Am I also in captivity?”

Roy motioned to the corner of the cafeteria, where the doctor and Jake were watching a cartoon on a television screen.  “Lise and I will show you to your quarters.  It is a safehouse in Vanier.  We have several more mounties guarding the premises.  We don’t think that the US government knows you’re here yet.  If we find out that they do, we will be coming to move you.  In the meantime, Lise and I have our reports to make. ”

They rose, and as Cooper moved to join Jake, Roy called out “Don’t forget your Bible.”

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1

Slowly, Cooper grew aware of aches where he didn’t normally ache, and a stinging feeling all over.  His groggy brain tried to process which of the two actually hurt more, before giving it up as a wasted effort.  He slowly opened his eyes, blinking slowly and cursing the fact that he wasn’t wrong.  The soft hum he’d heard was fluorescent light, which cast a dull greenish pallor over the institutional shade of paint on the cinder block walls of the holding cell.

“Well,” he thought to himself, “the fact that they approached was all the indication you needed that they already were in control of the situation.  Letting them capture you with little effort was just inelegant proof of what you had every reason to suspect.”

No other person was in sight.  He could see no windows.  He wondered what they had done with Jake.

A door opened at the end of the hall. A man of average height and build, dressed in street clothes walked through, advancing toward the holding cell.  “Good.  You’re finally awake.” he said, stopping at the cell door, and flashing a weak smile.

“I suspect that even if I saw the guy that hit me, the result would be the same.” Said Cooper, returning a weak smile of his own.

The stranger laughed.  “That’s true.  But he wasn’t close enough for you to touch anyway.”

“Sonic weapon?” asked Cooper.

“Close enough.” said the stranger, who again showed an unfelt smile.  “A gift from your government, for use in crowd control.”

“My government doesn’t exist anymore.” Cooper said grimly.  “The corpse of my country bears the same name, but it isn’t the one I was born into.”

“Indeed.” nodded the stranger, who was staring at Cooper, appearing to size him up.  “Why did you run?”

“Stubborness.” replied Cooper, as he leaned against the cell wall.  “I had it figured, but old habits die hard. ”

“Hmmm.” said the stranger.  “I think some of my superiors are banking on that.  I think some of the rest are afraid of that.  I haven’t decided for myself yet.”

Cooper pondered the words.  They knew where he was.  They probably had known for a while.  What made them wait so long before acting?  Shifting his weight slightly, he said “Well, astride the fence might be the safest place to be when your superiors don’t have a clear consensus. ”

The stranger’s eyes flickered.  “Do you take me for a coward?” he asked, his voice flat and dead sounding.

“Of course not.  I’ve known my share of Mounties.  “Cowards” is not a word that I would have associated with any of them.”  He knew the stranger was a pro, and the almost careless way he carried himself as he walked in the room indicated that he was practiced in lulling people into a false sense of security.

“Yes, we’re aware of your past.  You’ve seen things that many Canadians have never witnessed.  From places that many don’t even know exist.”

Cooper closed his eyes, and laughed.  “That was a lifetime ago.”

A few minutes passed as the stranger quietly regarded the man who sat before him.

“There doesn’t seem to be much traffic in this holding cell.  Not much crime here in the prairie provinces?” asked Cooper.

The stranger smiled again, this time with feeling.  “What makes you think that is where we are?”

Cooper sat up straight.  How long had he been out?  “Where is my son?” he asked quietly.

The stranger sighed.  “Relax, Cooper.  Can I call you Cooper?”

“You’d be surprised at what names I’ve answered to in my life.  Answer my question.  Where. Is. My. Son?”

The stranger replied “He’s fine.  He took the stunning a lot better than you did.  Probably because he is much younger.  He has a healthy appetite.  He’s in our cafeteria right now, having some lunch.”

Cooper allowed himself to believe what the stranger just said, and leaned back against the cell wall again.

“Are you hungry?” asked the stranger.  “It’s been a while.  You might want a sandwich.”

Cooper was hungry, but he didn’t see any point in making a big deal out of it.  He wanted to see Jake more than he wanted to eat.  He nodded yes.

The stranger unlocked the door, opened it slowly, and extended his hand.  “Agent Roy, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, currently on special assignment.”

Cooper took his hand, and firmly shook it.  “I’d introduce myself, but you apparently already know who I am.  What special assignment?”

“You.” Agent Roy stated flatly, as he turned to lead the way out.  Cooper followed Roy as they exited into another long, window-lined hallway.  Cooper looked out to see an urban skyline with the Peace Tower in the distance.  Ottawa.

After 30 years, he was back in Ottawa.  A mere 6-8 hour train ride and one international border from the state he grew up in.  He sighed again, looking down as they traversed the hall in a few quick steps, walking through a large metal door into a small, government cafeteria.  The only people in the room were Jake, who was busy eating macaroni and cheese from a tray, and the doctor from the library, who was smiling as she spoke with him.  Cooper walked two more steps, and Jake looked up, saw him, and yelled “DAD!”

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