“One Heat Minute” Podcast & Some Poetry

 

heat pic

Michael Mann’s 1995 L.A. crime opus, Heat, happens to be my favorite movie of all time.  Me and my family have somewhat of a deep connection to the film as well, given some of its didactic content relating to some of the dynamics found within a criminal’s family life, so the movie is especially important to me on that level as well.

As it so happens, there’s a podcast that began two years ago, called One Heat Minute, created by Australian film journalist, Blake Howard.  This podcast involved breaking down the movie Heat into 1-minute increments, analyzing one minute of the film per episode of the podcast.  This was an incredibly ambitious project for Blake Howard to undertake, but he finally finished the podcast a couple of days ago, after more than 166 episodes.  My brother, Niles Schwartz is also a film critic and has been featured on a few episodes of this podcast as well.  He actually shared some of our family history during one of those episodes, connecting my father to the movie’s Chris Shiherlis character (played by Val Kilmer), since my father had been in and out of prison his whole life, finally dying while serving a more than 20-year stretch for robbing more than 40 credit unions throughout the Midwest.

Since the movie meant so much to me, I decided to write a poem about it, which is something I had never done before, but I figured “what the hell, why not?”

I emailed Blake Howard and sent him my poem, and he loved it, unsurprisingly, since he’s probably the most pro-Heat biased person in the known universe, and so I expected him to like it even if it had been a complete disaster!  The poem is titled The Lone Wolf, and Blake asked me if he could read it on his podcast.  I was honored to say the least, and if that wasn’t already flattering enough, he actually waited until the final pre-credits minute episode of the podcast before airing it!  Needless to say, I was excited when he emailed me to tell me this.  Anyway, here’s a link to this episode of the podcast, where my poem is mentioned and then read, starting at about 02:59:00.  What an awesome opportunity it was to be a part of Blake’s epic journey!

Here’s the link:   Final Pre-Credits Minute Episode

And here’s the poem I wrote, below:

“The Lone Wolf”
By Lage von Dissen

Eagle, globe, and anchor branded
Fates intertwined, two men of arms
Paths diverge as they extend
Yet bound to intersect again

Trapped on the Island of McNeil
A fortress where amends are made
Freedom found, then lost in Folsom
Four year price, with seven paid

Gaining smarts for on the street
The captain found his loyal crew
Learning those tricks of-the-trade
Submerged within a feedback loop

Released again to play the game
By taking scores until the end
A stranger with a diff’rent mask
Was tasked to join the other men

The RAJA beast was running fast
An homage to the daughters four
With two-eleven in the air
The clock was ticking, time to go

A charge of shape had cracked the drums
For bonds that tied this crew as one
An itchy trigger finger pulled
‘Twas evil in its truest form

No witness left, for why the risk?
Though it didn’t have to come to this
Enraged by all the needless death
He sought the cowboy’s final breath

Distracted by those cherries flashed
That beard of evil slipped away
A new distraction came about
Despite the codes that hold their sway

A longing not to be alone
To feel her breath, her bodice warm
Conditions of humanity
Emotions push against the norm

The fence did guide the linen yonder
Into the laundry, t’clean what’s owed
But shady deals can go awry
And pride can overtake the show

Into an empty phone he talked
Revenge was sought, impulsive ought
Yet eyes still gazed upon a prize
Metals refined, precious defined

The Five-O prowler in the midst
With dedication, virtues fixed
Hoping that the bomb’s exotic
Though cynical and not quixotic

A simple name, betrayed the gang
One very common moniker
“Hey Slick!” a phrase the peacock sang
Surveilled right on the monitor

Patiently waiting, sounder of swine
To catch the pirates in the act
But gave to Charlie their position
Most contingent fact

Although the captain and his crew
Could feel the heat, already knew
They hungered for the twelve-point-two
A final score for dreams come true

Spotted on the one-o-five
The hammer fully cocked
Bullets spared for java joe
Their destinies were locked

Sharing darkness, sharing angst
Recalling existential woes
Content with both their lines of work
And neither willing to revert

They’re apt to do what they do best
Respect they’ll grant, forget the rest
Relations failed, they’re on their own
With ultimatums set in stone

Dreams revealed their inner selves
The shadow and the darkness felt
Drowning, for the time he lacked
Eight-ball hem’rrage staring back

They parted ways and both were warned
Surveillance gone, the hunt was on
The traitor had come back again
He tortured, killed, more blood was spilled

Guard of bodies well informed
Had tipped ’em off, the men in blue
First Commercial, Wilmington
A battle in the streets ensued

Many died that fateful day
The crew, ’twas all but two
Gambler, leader, made it out
They knew just what to do

The man who lived among remains
Was banking on a chance
That love and vengeance would entail
The making of their plans

One was actually saved by love
She let him get away
But vengeance had prevailed indeed
The other had to stay

The psychopath had lured him back
Triple tapped, the heart ‘n cap
Made him gaze into his eyes
To face the man before he dies

Abandoning his only love
Around the corner, felt the heat
New Zealand now so far away
The chance is gone, to be complete

On the tarmac, one-on-one
His shadow fluttered in the black
Fatal wound, he held his hand
He ain’t never going back

Advertisements

Blathering ’bout Some Birds in a Box

bird box picI recently watched Netflix’s Bird Box (directed by Susanne Bier, based on the novel by Josh Malerman), and although I wasn’t overly impressed with this film, I thought there were some interesting conceptual threads lying under the surface.  The story involves the age-old dichotomous narrative of good versus evil, where “the good” must use their strength and wit to persevere and triumph in this fight against evil and against those that perpetuate or propagate it.  In this case, we see humanity at large being attacked by an evil force taking the form of their worst fears, where blindfolding oneself or keeping one’s eyes closed to this mysterious entity is the only means of surviving its presence.  As an interesting caveat, only those that are deemed “insane” are immune to this danger, where they alone can face these entities with no apparent harm coming to them.  To add to the fear and chaos of this situation, these madmen are also intent on forcing everyone else to see what they perceive to be an awe-inspiring force (as if it were a god), and they perform this (often violent) coercion regardless of the fact that forcing others to see what they see is effectively an act of murder.

There’s a number of metaphoric and allegorical threads one could extract from this story-line, including interpreting the entity as some kind of god (Yahweh?), and the blindfolding of the masses as the inability to face this God, whether in the biblical sense where a face-to-face encounter results in death (e.g. Exodus 33:20), or in the figurative/spiritual sense of modern humanity having turned away from God (for better or worse).  Furthermore, this entity taking on the form of one’s biggest fears resonates with the biblical conception of the unequivocal “fear of God”.  If we were to frame the story around such an allegory, then the dystopic chaos that ensues from this “turning away”, and the difficulties that arise, may be entirely expected from a religious perspective.  Even though the atheistic skepticism precipitating from modernity and the Enlightenment has no doubt brought us a number of epistemic, political, and societal benefits, it’s also created its own share of problems that are yet to be resolved.

Religion and belief in a God or gods often fills a void in people’s lives because of the many hardships concomitant with the human condition, and so even if there’s a conscious decision to reject this emotional or spiritual crutch, there’s an unavoidable trade-off that can make life much more psychologically challenging, as exemplified by the burdensome journey undertaken by Malorie and her children.  On the other hand, those that intentionally or inadvertently come face-to-face with this God or God concept may be hypnotically drawn in by it, and thereby end up committing a form of intellectual suicide in the process.

In the interest of considering a radically different interpretation of this story, what if “the entity” is actually a representation of the intellectual content or philosophical paradigms that have arisen in our modern age?  Modernity has brought with it various instantiations of existentialism, postmodernism, skepticism, atheism, and along with it a transvaluation of our morals and of the meaning and purpose that we ascribe to our own lives.  It is no doubt unsettling (if not outright frightening) to face and contemplate our own existential status, among other things, the fact that we are but an infinitesimally small and insignificant constituent of an unfathomably old and vast cosmos, and the fact that our lives (as individuals and as a species) are relatively short as we inch closer to our inevitable death.

Most people would prefer to blind themselves from these uncomfortable facts even if this is accomplished by being unconsciously driven to adopt any manner of ideologies or belief systems that serve as a means of epistemic isolation and psychological consolation.  For those that earnestly try to confront and navigate this seemingly alien existential space, whether intentionally or as a matter of chance, many are overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, and the like, even leading some to contemplate or go through with committing suicide.  If one’s sense of meaning and purpose is uprooted, it’s not surprising that they may feel lost in this world, even losing their will to live.  In short, many are simply not mentally prepared to handle a number of uncomfortable existential truths nor are we all equally well-equipped to psychologically handle many of the obstacles encountered in our human condition.  Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Marx, and a number of other great thinkers of the modern age knew this fact about “the masses” all too well, even if they each differed in their interpretation of, or response to, this particular problem.

The blindfolding of the masses could be taken to represent a fairly common response to the realizations brought about by modernity, manifesting itself as a kind of reflexive blindness to the present state of affairs, but also resulting in an aimless wandering, where people are in need of some kind of direction, a structure or system to guide them through what has become a very unfamiliar and often disturbing world.

Eventually Malorie and her kids find a guide of sorts, when they make radio contact with a stranger by the name of “Rick” that instructs them to travel through the woods and down a nearby river – an almost 48-hour arduous journey – to reach what appears to be their last hope of refuge.  After encountering a few hurdles along the way, including a violent run-in with a madman, and a near-death experience after cap-sizing their boat, they reach their long sought-after sanctuary.  It turns out that the sanctuary is a school for the blind, and Malorie discovers that the stranger she had spoken with on the radio is himself blind, thus granting him and a number of others at this sanctuary their own reliable means of protection from the entity.

It’s interesting to consider the fact that Malorie and her kids are being guided toward their own form of salvation by a blind person, serving as a good analogy of the role played by religious clergy, where they’re often blind to reason in order to “see” by way of faith.  And Malorie’s use of birds to help signal the level of danger around her as they’re forced to “see with their ears”, is not only a functional analogue to the coal miner’s canary, but also reflects the role that birds play in the biblical story of Noah and the Great Flood, where doves were used to signal when the flood had ended.  Malorie’s use of the birds might also be seen to represent our harnessing and domestication of nature, and how civilization has helped us overcome the brutality and indifference found within the state of nature.  But our use of technology has also created its own set of problems for us, thus paradoxically being both a source of, and solution to, many of the problems precipitating from modern life.

And might we benefit from recognizing the fact that the madmen, who are trying to force others to see what they see, are very reminiscent of religious proselytizers and theocrats – though this can also be extended conceptually to the proselytizing of atheism or postmodernism (depending on one’s interpretation of what “the entity” represents)?  Religious followers (let alone fanatics) can seem like madmen to rational skeptics, just as many atheists, skeptics, existentialists, and postmodernists can seem like madmen to mystics, traditionalists, and to the devoutly religious.  In either case of proselytizing, there’s an inherent problem when the tactics taken are too forceful, and with respect to the unforeseen consequences resulting from a “successful” ideological conversion (such as violent behavior or other forms of moral regression towards oneself or others).  The madmen symbolize quite well the fanaticism, coercion, and lack of mutual understanding that have plagued our history and constrained our cultural evolution for millennia.

Throughout this perilous journey, the trials and tribulations experienced along the way symbolize the challenges and difficulties encountered on any spiritual or transformational journey.  And, to further the religious allegory, it’s not much more of a stretch to see the capsizing of the boat (arguably the climax of this difficult journey), where both Malorie and her children are briefly submerged underwater, as a baptism of sorts – a symbolic death and resurrection – experienced just prior to reaching the final destination on their path to redemption.  Pondering over such a story should always give us pause to ask what our path to redemption, as a society, ought to be.