Monday, August 17, 2009

Confederacy of Dunces, Indeed

Fascinating flick that's been playing on IFC the past few months. The Confederate States of America. It's a Mockumentary set in the 1960s, ostensibly covering the history of the 'CSA' - an imagining of what the USA might be like 100 years later had the south won the Civil War.

It might be the mid-20th century here in this flick but slavery is alive and well, complete with 'catchy' commercials for different 'brands' of servitude as well as all your various slave-related needs (a QVC style ad touts "The Shackle - keeps 'em in line!" while a young black model shows it off on her wrist). Makes you think twice when a commercial for the new 'automated' dishwasher comes on (the Maytag repairmen need to go to medical school here).

The coverage of the burgeoning anti-slavery movement in this "documentary" along with the narrator's serious-yet-dismissive coverage of the mounting international pressures on the CSA in that direction have a kind of authenticity - and familiarity - that is simultaneously silly and chilling.

Biting satire - fucking big, razor-sharp teeth, it might seem outrageous at times but hits home in unexpected ways. It shows that we're not nearly as removed from this 'civilized' inhumanity as we might like to think we are.

And not at all in some respects.

Mr. Vick, it's on IFC all month, I suggest you catch it - the irony there is heavy enough sink all of us to your level.

It's pretty damn funny in the end. And the point is, it shouldn't be.

Momar better blues

One of my fellow travelers at work tuned me into this vanity fair blurb on everyone's favorite goofball dictator, Momar Qaddafi. Qaddafi is a very weird melding of Calvin Klein, MC Hammer, Dr. No., Saddam Hussein, Lil' Kill Jong Il and Richard Branson. He's definitely not on Mr. Blackwell's Best Dressed List. But he has a certain style, a certain je ne sais qua.

He's got everything you'd want in a tin-horn, cult-of-personality middle eastern megalomaniac strongman, though he comes across more like he'd been filtered through maybe a Tarantino sensibility circa Kill Bill:
  • An all-girl icy-hot security force - calling Robert Palmer, he's addicted to love, yepper
  • A name that is spelled in twenty different ways regularly to "confuse" his enemies - got it
  • Outfits to make Elton John blush in embarrassment - in spades
  • A straight-outta-Shaft 70s 'fro - that's a far out affirmative, man
  • The permanent rank of Colonel, though he rules over all his Generals - yes sir! He is, after all, a man of the people, not some out of touch Flag Officer.
Hey Maummer-man, picture it: Colonel Gaddafi's Banghazi Fried Lamb Kabobs. Finger choppin' good. Come on, Muammar, I'll help you get it off the ground, but I wouldn't be surprised if you're already two steps ahead of me. With 64-oz Momar Malts (souvenir cups!). Don't forget the sporks!

I feel as though I know Kadafi personally since I spent a couple years in my early twenties studying his moves intently for a living, mainly with the goal of helping to kill him, as it turned out. Well, not kill him, at least that wasn't the plan as I knew it. Annoy him, was more like it. Demonstrating "freedom of the seas" by moving to the edge of where international waters and airspace ended and Libya's sovereignty began.

The rub was that Momar claimed as his all the air and water 50 miles north of the internationally recognized demarcation. And he didn't like unwelcome neighbors crawling through what he thought was his front yard.

Day after day, I'd sit in the tactical analysis plot, a tiny smoke-filled room (I was probably sucking down a pack a day of the second hand variety) walled off in the center island of the aircraft carrier Eisenhower as we ambled across the Mediterranean Sea. It was 1983 and I was just a 20 year old intelligence analyst with delusions of rebellion, listening to Nina Hagen and the Ramones on the tape deck as I poured over information from a number of sources, classified and not.

[That's me on the right in June '84, along with a hundred of my 'friends'. I'm one of the sailors in the 'I' spelling out IKE - miserably hungover from too much English hard cider the night before, waiting for that clown Reagan to fly over us and 'read' what ship we were while on his way to Normandy to celebrate the 40th anniversary of D-Day. Thinking back, maybe they always did that when Reagan was around - perhaps that was the only way he could tell which ship he was looking at. But that's another story for another time.]

The dirty little secret of the intelligence community was that, at least back then and I can only speak for our little world, about 80% of the best stuff came off the wire from AP/UPI and Reuters and not from some exotic top secret piece of military technology. We'd stamp a bogus classification on the data when briefing to the higher ups in order to give it "credibility" and change a few words here and there but otherwise it was straight off the same news wire that the rest of the world was reading.

A lot of that time was focused on Libya, at least until Beirut literally blew up. Our fighter jets flew their "freedom of the seas" patrols deep within what our man Muammer thought was his private fishing hole, extending nearly half way to Sicily. Momar was fucking with his neighbor Chad (I think they were sweet for the same girl - Ba. dump), funneling money to rebels in that country. It seems our hair-brain in chief Buckaroo Bonzo Reagan didn't much like that, even while he was dispatching Ollie North to collect sacks of cash from Iran bound for the contra rebels in Nicaragua, hypocrisy in full bloom.

So we'd be told to 'buzz Quadafi's tower' and Khadafi'd be all "I'm going to destroy your ship!" should we be so stupid as to cross his "line of death".

Good times.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, we'd attempt to sift through all the info flowing in, trying to pinpoint where the Colonel's submarines were, the location of his MIG fighter jets, and the status and movement of his surface to air weapons.

I like to say we did the "Foxtrot" together: he would send his rusted, creaky, leaky, barely sea-worthy Russian hand-me-down Foxtrot diesel submarines out of their Libyan ports into parts unknown, presumably to hunt for The Great Satan. We'd lose them sometimes and suddenly they'd pop up in Yugoslavia or maybe just disappear for good, down to the floor of the Mediterranean. When I first saw that bad Kelsey Grammer submarine movie, Down Periscope, I thought of Muammer's Foxtrots.

Ahh, Momar - I miss ya, buddy. Good times, indeed. Remember, I was just playin' with ya! I was outa that biz by the time Ronnie and his minions got rough in 1987. But he's long gone and you're still Coloneling around, as stylish as ever (even more so - who are you wearing these days? Nicky Hilton?)

If you want to read about our exploits in 1983, check out this Time Magazine article.