My wife has an iBook. Or rather had. It has been ceded to Gnat. I loaded it up with a bunch of toddler-centric programs and solemnly presented it to her. “My puter,” she said. “Just like Daddy’s!”

Colin Powell is on TV right now, and he’s not a happy man. Meanwhile Gnat is playing with a Mr. Potato painting game on her puter, and the game has this wacky kazoo-based soundtrack, the sort of music you’d find in late 60s-early 70s movie farces, when the action would speed up and pies would be deployed. The contrast between the music and the game’s sound effects provide a bizarre contrast to the pith of Powell’s address.

I’ve been drum-tight all day, skittish and jittery; we are very very close to the point at which certain introductions will be made: crap, meet fan. Fan, crap. I remember last year reading a Drudge headline that said something like PENTAGON: NO IRAQ WAR UNTIL 2003, and that seemed impossibly distant. But here we are.

Here we are.

On 9/11 Gnat was playing with an Elmo phone - the movie I made for that month has her standing in front of the TV, the smoking towers behind her. She’s holding out the phone and punching numbers, a big smile on her face, prerecorded Elmo saying SIX. SEVEN. FOUR. Jasper Dog, having sensed something very bad, is on his back, his paws in the air, and he’s whining. But Gnat knew nothing then. She’ll know something this time. I’ll catch her staring at me as I watch the news. You okay, Daddee? You okay? I smile and lie, because that’s my job.

That phone is still around, but it’s sunk to the bottom of the toy bin. When the bin’s packed tight and you slide it closed, sometimes the weight of the toys presses the keys and makes Elmo talk: SIX. SEVEN. FOUR. Every time that happens it reminds me of 9/11. Weeks and months and maybe even years will pass, but let 9/11 happen again and it will be yesterday, and all the days in between will seem like minutes spent in slumber.

A vaguely related note - I have amused myself here making fun of the trite tripe issued by Concerned Actors and other Artists, so it’s only fair to note when one of them acts as if he gets it. Ron Silver is one of those activist / actors, but he always struck me as a smart man. You could argue with him for an hour, maybe two, and you wouldn’t be buried in cardboard platitudes. I think it’s fair to say he’s a liberal - you don’t find many on the Heston side of the ledger who believe in single-payer health care system. But I was reading the WSJ today, and in an account of Colin Powell’s visit to the Davos summit in Switzerland, there’s this:

“On formal panels, in corridors and at normally genteel dinners, tempers flared. At one dinner of poached salmon, Patrick Cox, the president of the European Union parliament, blasted the US for its go-it-alone approach. ‘The real Europe has values,’ he said. ‘Our imperial days are over, and thank God for that.’

“Ron Silver, the US actor and political activist, jumped up from a table across the room to retort that if it weren’t for the US, hundreds of thousands more civilians would have died in the Balkans, while Europe sat idly by. The US had no interest in that region other than humanitarian, he said. ‘We are not an imperial government, Mr. Cox,’ he said. ‘You know that, and everyone here knows that.’”

Bravo. That’s all: bravo. That took guts and smarts; Silver has both.

Saw the Two Towers Friday night; words fail me, etc. Never looked at my watch once. Commanded body to shut down all liquid processing so I wouldn’t have to miss anything. I’ve never seen a three-hour movie that made me wish it had been four - but perhaps that disappointment was salved by the knowledge that the special edition DVD will stretch it out to five.

As I said before, I was never a LOTR fan - never read the books. I didn’t even realize that the lyrics to Zep’s Misty Mountain Hop were about the LOTR, and when I learned this I was quite disappointed. But I was reduced to a panting fandork after seeing one hour of the first movie, and I admit it does not take much for my inner fandork to emerge - for God’s sake, I’m on record as enjoying both AOTC and ST: Nemesis, which shows my willingness to defenestrate any sort of critical viewpoint if enough stuff blows up and phasers are involved. But those were different - I had low expectations, saw them as matinees, and stopped fighting the urge to open the taps on my Snoot Gland. I just decided to enjoy them, and did. The LOTR was viewed under opposite circumstances; the movie been hyped to the sky, and I resisted the subject material. So when I fell in love with the first movie after oh, six minutes, I realized I was in the presence of something incredible. Hell, my wife had zero interest in things Hobbity, and she was stunned & thrilled by “Fellowship.” It’s just that good. We saved the last hour of the first movie for Thursday, because we were going to see TT on Friday.

The phrase “hell is other people” comes to mind every time I see a movie. I want you to be so quiet and still you make a corpse look like Bobcat Goldthwaite, okay? Shutup. You can issue a ghostly whisper to your seatmate now and then, but no sotto voce colloquies, no running commentaries. The people behind us weren’t that bad, but there were two upper-middle-aged women of distinctly Midwestern extraction who hadn’t bargained on this, and made little sounds of disapproval whenever something unusual appeared on-screen. Orcs? Jeez. Dead bodies in the marsh of the dead? Jeez. Lots of that. Lots of Jeezes. You could actually feel their lack of enjoyment like a hot black shadow on your neck - not just disapproval of the movie, but a lack of comprehension why anyone would make this, let alone watch it. But they were nothing compared to FanGals in the seat in front of me. I don’t say this to insult FanBoys and FanGirls in general; I understand completely that nerdy glee that comes when you’re marinating in the pure geek ghee of a well-done movie. But most fans can keep it to themselves. Aside from the occasional Knowing Look to our friends, or clenched fist drumming on the thigh, we sit and we drink it in, and save the wide broad gestures for later.


FanGal One and FanGal Two had seen this movie before, I believe; no one who acted that way could have possibly waited until now to see the movie. FanGal Two was quiet, but FG1 behaved as though she thought Peter Jackson and J.R.R. Tolkein were in the same row and she really wanted them to know how much she loved this. At first I thought she was, well, slow, but soon it became apparent that FG1 just didn’t know how to behave in public. During fight scenes she started punching the air. In moments of triumph she would thrust her fists up in victory. Every time something remotely dramatic happened, she rubbed her palms and clapped and turned to FG2 for consultation.

Move? Not an option. I decided that she was obviously mentally challenged, and there was nothing to do. But I tensed whenever Drama Loomed, because I knew we were in for clapping and fist-thrusting. During the last third of the movie, the astonishing battle, I put my hand on my cheek in such a way that her histrionics weren’t visible, and while it had the effect of blocking her out I was now aware that I had my hand on my cheek. Took me right out of the movie - almost. It was good enough that someone stabbing me in the thigh with fondue forks wouldn’t have taken me out of the movie.

Film ends, lights go up, and I get a good look at FG1. Utterly normal. Thirty or so. Nothing wrong with her. She’s chatting with FG2, gathering her stuff, yammering away about who should go get the takeout, and I nearly leapt across the seat and strangled her: what - is - the MATTER with you? But my noble friend the Giant Swede stayed my hand, and yea spoke words of wisdom: this is all she has, this movie. Look at her. This is her life.

And my ire ebbed.

The DVD can’t come soon enough. I have to see this again without Fist-Pumping FanGirl.

Although I’m sure there’s an easter-egg that lets you superimpose one in the right-hand corner, MST3K-style.

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