I’m Proud of You Too Jean-Luc

“I wonder what people in Star Trek will think when they look back on this time,” my mother reflected during one of our COVID-19 FaceTime calls. 

Absolute Candor

I immediately laughed. This was the most Baby Boomer way to think about the future; that the version of tomorrow she grew up with watching Star Trek was not merely a creative vision of what the future could be, but an actual glimpse into what the future will be. It’s as though the Star Trek continuity is the actual timeline of human history and we’re all just waiting to catch up with it. We joked about Spock looking into his little computer viewfinder on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, explaining to Captain Kirk what life was like in Orange County during the early 21st century, but it got me thinking about my favorite sci-fi franchise.

It’s as though the Star Trek continuity is the actual timeline of human history and we’re all just waiting to catch up with it.

Until Picard, all of the recent Star Trek iterations have been prequels to the titular Captain’s “next generation” of Star Trek adventures, obsessed with fitting into the future history of Star Trek continuity in ways that pleased old fans while still charting new frontiers. Enterprise, the Kelvinverse and Discovery have had their relative merits, but have each been hampered by the fact having a prequel about the future is a contradiction in terms. These adventures may take place in our future, but they take place in the past of the Star Trek universe itself. The pleasure of watching shows about the future is that we don’t know what the future holds. In the case of the “classic” Kirk era of Star Trek, we know exactly where it’s going. For years, fans have been wanting to see what happened after Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies transitioned to Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek theme and the Next Generation officially hung up their pips.

With Picard, the Star Trek universe has not only taken us back to the future, it has firmly established that the future is now. Instead of beginning scenes with Stardates centuries ahead of us, they begin with chyrons telling us that these things were happening only a few days before now. This is not a vision of the future, Picard is taking place now and we are right there with our titular Starfleet legend. This immediacy reminds us that good science fiction is never actually about the future, it’s about what’s happening in our society now. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek understood that and used the show to discuss the societal and geo-political issues of the day, often to the point of beating audiences over the head with broad cultural analogies. Perhaps it’s why Picard’s dark storyline has been jarring to some fans of the series. It’s hard to imagine Roddenberry approving a story about Starfleet becoming xenophobic isolationists. But considering the era of “American Carnage” we live in today, it’s not surprising. 

The optimism of the original Star Trek was a product of the gee-whiz wonder of the Space Age, the courage of the Civil Rights movement and the liberation of Second Wave Feminism. Conversely, the run of the Next Generation straddled the collapse of the Soviet era, and the tone of the series reflects the sense of moral authority the United States projected during her brief period of unrivaled hegemony between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the toppling of the Twin Towers. 

Picard meanwhile lands on TV screens as millions of workers see the threat of automation and artificial intelligence to their livelihood, the world reels from cataclysmic natural disasters caused by climate change and the President of the United States casts the refugees and immigrants fleeing a world engulfed by violence and suffering as foreign invaders. It makes sense that Jean-Luc Picard lives in a world where collapsing stars swallow up whole worlds, sentient artificial beings are driven to near-extinction and his beloved Starfleet has abdicated its once-vaunted ideals. It makes sense because the American ideal itself is in question. 

Picard reflects our current condition not only on the galactic scale, but in the small ways as well. Riker and Troi’s family life offers us a glimpse into what “normal” life is like in the 24th century. Riker tells his smart home to turn off the music and turn on the home security system while his daughter slyly sends text messages under the dinner table. This technology, which seemed so futuristic when we first met the Next Generation, is part of every-day life now. Star Trek’s gadgets have often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Communicators and Tricorders became smartphones, Holodecks became VR and replicators became 3D printers. Many scientists, inventors, astronauts and innovators credit Star Trek with inspiring them to pursue their goals. So maybe Mom was right, maybe Star Trek is our future. 

Despite bouts of dystopia, Picard still offers precious glimpses of Roddenberrian hope and optimism. Picard himself is that beacon of hope. As the series goes on, our beloved Captain becomes something of a galactic Bernie Sanders. Like Bernard, he’s a remnant of another era of who remains dedicated to peace and compassion and trying to rally a new generation to take up that torch. He’s become a bit crusty in his old age, getting irritated during news interviews and going against the status quo of the establishment, often to his own detriment. But his frustration never darkens the purity of his heart. More than the starships and the transporters, Picard’s dedication to empathy and diplomacy is the most futuristic part of this new series. He’s an old man whose heart remains, as the great Dr. Carol Marcus would say, “young as when the world was new.”

Like Bernie Sanders, Picard is a remnant of another era of who remains dedicated to peace and compassion and trying to rally a new generation to take up that torch.

There’s a moment in the show when Picard turns to one of the characters and says “I’m proud of you.” But the shot is framed with Patrick Stewart in close-up looking towards the camera, as though he is speaking to me. As someone who was bullied on the bus for reading Star Trek books, who has learned so much about leadership, friendship, loyalty and courage over the years from Star Trek, who has leaned on the comforting sound of the Enterprise’s engines while nursing broken hearts and dreams deferred I realized how much I needed that moment. As our world starts to feel slightly dystopian, with millions of us cooped up in our little starships tapping away at the tablets and phones that Star Trek inspired, yearning for leadership, inspiration and a glimmer of hope for the world we will leave for the next generation, perhaps we all need to hear that. Maybe we all need Jean-Luc Picard, the great captain, the legendary peacemaker and the selfless ambassador of what could and must be, to look us all in the eyes and say, “I’m proud of you.”

But remember, even though Jean-Luc Picard is the wizened old sage of the Star Trek universe, we are all older than him. We are not his children, we are his ancestors. The universe he inhabits is ours to create. It’s our collective responsibility to leave Picard a world as hopeful as his.  Picard is not a perfect show, but as I gaze towards the stars and see all the impossible things the still-unborn Captain Picard will accomplish after I’m long gone, I am heartened to say, “I’m proud of you too Jean-Luc.”

The Shadow Endorsement

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President Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg leaned against the Resolute Desk and thought long and hard about that Saturday twelve years ago. The night before Super Tuesday in 2020 — the night Barack Obama told him to drop out of the race for the Democratic Nomination. It was a shadow endorsement from the former President, a man unwilling to openly endorse any particular primary candidate, yet dedicated to preserving the status quo of the party. Even if it meant losing the general election.

“Uh look, Pete,” Obama explained, “you’re still a young man. Your time has not yet come, but it will. I need you, the party needs you to step aside and let Joe take this on.”

“I understand Mr. President.”

“The center must hold Pete,” the former President misquoted Yeates.

The words sparked a memory of an essay Pete had written 20 years before.

Politicians are rushing for the center, careful not to stick their necks out on issues 

“I hate to say it Pete, but the country isn’t as liberal as Bernie, or even you or I.”

Most Democrats shy away from the word ‘liberal’ like a horrid accusation.

“You still there Pete?”

“Yes Mr. President.”

“So you’ll call Joe?”

“Right now Mr. President.”

As he hung up the phone, more of his own words rushed to mind. Words he had written about Bernie Sanders, the man he had called “divisive” a few days earlier. The man whose political obituary he may have just written.

I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption. I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service. I can personally assure you this is untrue.

Mayor Pete wondered if he had just betrayed his own words, or upheld them.

Twelve years later, President Pete sat back down at the Resolute Desk. There were two bills sitting on it. One for free public colleges, another for medicare for all. Next to them was a speech explaining why he would veto them both.

 The President straightened his tie and stood as the press corp invaded the Oval Office.

“Mr. President! Mr. President!” the Greek Chorus of the Fourth Column called out that beautiful constitutional moniker, that final line on his storied curriculum vitae.

President Pete wrapped his heart in the word like a flag as he fought back tears.

The election of 2020 was the most brutal in living memory. The Proud Boys clashed with Antifa on the tear-gas fogged steps of the nation’s state houses as two geriatric baby boomers publicly sundowned in an unprecedented display of vitriolic incoherence. With all the allegations of election interference, voter suppression and outright fraud, historians are still arguing over who really “won” the election that year. A winner was called on election night, but the opposing candidate contested the results in several states, the outcomes of which were ultimately decided at the courthouse. When the “winner” finally raised his hand to take the oath of office the following January, Lady Liberty was still nursing the bruising black eye of that fatal November battle.

The Proud Boys clashed with Antifa on the tear-gas fogged steps of the nation’s state houses as two geriatric baby boomers publicly sundowned in an unprecedented display of vitriolic incoherence.

It’s hard to say when that great, lumbering silent majority of complacent moderates coalesced around the Democratic party as the GOP surveyed the scorched landscape the most corrupt President in American history had left them. But Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg always thought it was the morning of Mitch McConnell’s funeral. Seated next to Texas Governor Beto O’Rourke, then Senate Majority Leader Buttigieg noticed how empty the church was. Many of the late Majority Leader’s friends and colleagues had already taken the long and winding road to meet their maker. Others stayed home, hoping to forget the damage the man had done to the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Former President Donald Trump was golfing in Mar a Lago.

“Great guy, terrific,” was all he said.

As the proceedings came to a close, Senator Buttigieg unexpectedly walked to the dais and delivered an impromptu speech.

“Senator McConnell and I were ships that passed in the night,” he explained, “a handing of the torch between generations. But I’ll never forget the words he told me on the day of my inauguration. ‘Everything I’ve done has been for my country,’ he told me, ‘and I trust that everything you’ll do will be for the same.’ I think of my friends of different faiths every time I remember that conversation. We pray in different houses of worship, with different books in our hands, often speaking different languages. But we all pray to the same God. I have led in another direction than Senator McConnell did. But we both led the same nation, the United States of America. God bless her and God bless the soul of Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr.”

Secretary of Labor Occasio-Cortez called Senator Buttigieg a traitor to the working class and people of color. The Democratic party carried Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg to the convention on their shoulders that year and selected him as their nominee for President.

He worked with young, moderate Republicans to pass clean energy bills and universal background checks. He patched up Obamacare and kept it on life support as Trump court appointees waged war against it. He compromised with advocates of tuition free public universities to fund free “Coding Colleges.” Previously sought-after skills became commonplace, deflating the wages of young people looking to enter the tech industry. The vast swaths of citizens encouraged to “learn new career skills” slumped into a new category of working poor. The 1% retained their grip on the majority of wealth while the rest continued to take on the majority of debt. But the stock market remained stable and exports stayed strong. Thanks to his tax compromise with the GOP, a diverse coalition of voters clawed themselves into the middle class and formed a moderate Democratic firewall to last a generation. But it was President Pete’s foreign policy that won him a landslide victory in his re-election bid.

When Iranian hackers brought down half of the electricity grid on the Eastern Seaboard, President Pete marshaled the support of his former colleagues in the Senate to beat the drums of war. After the fall of Tehran, the United Nations supported his plan to move Palestinian citizens to “land reservations” in occupied Iranian territory. The American media applauded President Pete for finally bringing “Peace” to the Middle East. His only primary rival for the Presidential nomination, Rashida Tlaib, called it the “Silk Trail of Tears.”

His only primary rival for the Presidential nomination, Rashida Tlaib, called it the “Silk Trail of Tears.” 

Pete Buttigieg’s most vivid memory of receiving the Nobel Peace prize was the sight of protestors in Oslo flinging rotten pomegranates at his motorcade chanting “Pax Americana.” As he stepped to the podium to receive his prize, he remembered Bernie Sanders’ speech at the 2020 Democratic Convention in Milwaukee.

“Our multi-generational, multi-racial coalition does not disband tonight. Our vision for a better future does not fade. Our fight against income inequality does not end. Tonight it begins anew.” 

President Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg likes to think he made that vision come true. But in his darkest moments, he knows that his America is a broken mirror of that vision espoused by the man who convinced him to get into politics in the first place. He wonders what would have happened if he had told President Obama “no” that Saturday before Super Tuesday. If he had stayed in the fight or joined Bernie Sanders in his. If Bernie Sanders had become President.

“Mr. President! Mr. President!” the reporters roused Pete Buttigieg from his revery.

“Yes, Ms. Fontaine,” Pete pointed at a young reporter.

“Will you veto these two bills or sign them into law?”

Just as they had that night in 2020, the words of his old essay came flooding back.

Fortunately for the political process, there remain a number of committed individuals who are steadfast enough in their beliefs to run for office to benefit their fellow Americans. Such people are willing to eschew political and personal comfort and convenience because they believe they can make a difference. One outstanding and inspiring example of such integrity is the country’s only Independent Congressman, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.

For the first time in decades, Pete Buttigieg experienced an old but familiar feeling in his heart. He felt the Bern.

He felt the Bern.

The President smiled and pulled a pen out of his pocket.

“I could answer that for you,” he explained to the reporters, “but actions speak louder than words.”

President Pete sat down at the Resolute Desk and put pen to paper.

Filed under “Future History.”

 

 

The Mandalorian lands on Disney+

There’s a scene in The Mandalorian when our titular anti-hero walks past a Kowakian monkey-lizard being spit-roasted as his compatriot watches in horror from the confines of a cage, knowing he’s next. We’re reminded that the Galaxy Far Far Away is a cruel and dangerous place, and the fun of a good Star Wars romp is following the small handful of people who manage to stay alive while everyone else is falling in endless pits, getting eaten by monsters and meeting all kinds of brutally hilarious deaths. Now every time I see that annoying Salacious Crumb cackle away in Return of the Jedi, it will make me smile. Another great thing about Star Wars is that it is constantly expanding self-reflexively, so that the new content — even the bad stuff — only enhances your enjoyment of the original.

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There’s been talk of a live-action Star Wars for years, even before the Disney buy-out, and now the pilot for The Mandalorian has finally dropped on Disney+, with a slew of other series slated to follow. Now seems as good a time as any for Star Wars to stretch its legs on TV.

I don’t buy into this bullshit about a “Golden Age of Television.” Most people can’t afford HBO and are stuck watching Young Sheldon and NCIS. So in reality, TV has been on a downward spiral since Cheers and Magnum PI were cancelled. All this “prestige TV” really represents a return to the Serial Films of the pre-television era — the same stuff that inspired Star Wars in the first place. Everyone has observed that TV shows have become more movies and movie franchises are more like TV shows. Average the two out and you’ve got a return to the days of Republic Pictures.

That’s why Martin Scorsese’s  argument that Marvel movies aren’t “cinema” is a bunch of bantha poodoo. Scorsese’s idea of cinema as art house is largely a construct of his “film school generation,” when a bunch of glassy-eyed NYU and USC graduates wandered the ruins of the studio system telling each other that Vertigo was better than Citizen Kane so they’d sound smart. Of course, by elevating film into an art form, those guys brought us some of the best movies of all time. But their run of 1970s art house classics is the exception to cinematic output, not the rule. The cinema has always been a place for kids to eat candy and watch guys swing around in capes and tights. The people trying to convince you Marvel flicks aren’t “real” movies are the same assholes telling single mothers working a double shift that McDonald’s isn’t “real” food. Maybe you’re right, but get off your high horse.

Okay back to The Mandalorian. Is the show any good? Of course. I know it’s popular to bash new Star Wars, but despite the Disney Corporation representing everything that will lead to the downfall of humanity, their Star Wars content has been pretty good, and The Mandalorian is probably the truest to the source material since Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars micro-series. That being said, the members of the press who were tweeting about experiencing tearful orgasms after watching a half-hour sizzle reel a couple weeks ago need to get a hold of themselves. It’s just a fucking TV show. It’s not going to “save” Star Wars because there’s nothing to save.

The glut of Star Wars content that has flooded the landscape since the buyout can be overwhelming, but it does offer some great variety, ensuring there is something for every type of fan. The kids have those boring Star Wars cartoons, the virtue-signalling “saga” films are fun for the whole family, and The Mandalorian is for us “serious” Star Wars fans — childless elder-millennials like me and nostalgic Gen X’rs talking about how “metal” it was when Darth Vader strangled all those guys in Rogue One.

Speaking of Gen X, they say Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau consulted Star Wars creator George Lucas on set, and if that’s true I think it’s a good sign for the rest of the series. One of the lost opportunities of the prequel trilogy is that Lucas didn’t collaborate on the story with younger writers of Favreau’s generation. Conversely, a major failing of Force Awakens is that JJ Abrams effectively shut Lucas out of the creative process. Star Wars has always been about generational torch-passing, with wizened mentors passing on the ways of the Force to their young apprentices. It’s why The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars, because young Lucas collaborated so well with his mentor Irvin Kershner.

I think The Mandalorian is poised to serve an important function in the Star Wars universe by filling out the gaps between the Original Trilogy and the current run of films. Set five years after the Battle of Endor, it takes place during a time period many Star Wars fans wanted the new films to cover. Maybe we’ll finally learn how the remnants of the Empire transformed into the First Order without having to read some dumbass book. Even if we don’t, the show looks cool, has a great cast and some badass action sequences. Will it usher in a “Golden Age” of Star Wars? Probably not, but it’s a worthy entry in the “Movie Serial Renaissance.”

My recommendation? Wait until the whole series is available, get a free trial and binge watch it. If you’re interested in this show, odds are you’ve already given enough money to Bob Iger. Watch a few hours of content on the House (of Mouse). Viva la Rebellion.

007 Things James Bond Has Done Stupider than Being a Woman or Black

As usual, fandom is up in arms about some bullshit. This time it’s a rumor that James Bond will be passing his license to kill to actress Lashana Lynch in No Time to Die, the next entry of the long-running franchise. This would of course make Lynch both the first black 007 and the first female 007. Personally, I think Lynch has the swagger and badassery to be a great 007 but others have lambasted this as a betrayal of the character. A recent poll has revealed that three out of four people do not want a female 007.

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For me, making Lashana Lynch a new 007 but not a new James Bond is a clever way of keeping the character of James Bond who he is, but freeing up the narrative to make 007 who she is. As a life-long Bond fanatic, I’m curious to see them try something new and confident that the world will keep turning if it doesn’t work out. First of all, making Lashana Lynch 007 isn’t “crazy.” And even it it were, there are plenty of times the Bond franchise has done things “crazier” than handing over the 00 designation to someone who doesn’t resemble the previous person to hold the title. Here’s my list of the Seven things Double-O-Seven has done that are stupider than being a black woman:

001 Become Japanese

That’s right, this wouldn’t be the first time 007 has changed races. Only instead of a reasonable explanation like James Bond retiring and passing the baton to a black woman, they like literally gave him a racial makeover in 1969’s You Only Live Twice. That’s right, in order to help him go undercover as a local fisherman, James Bond is given some sort of race transplant to turn him Japanese. For some reason, the procedure is also carried out by a bunch of hot, giggling girls in bikinis just to make it more James Bondy. Ultimately, turning Japanese just means putting James Bond in Spock makeup. Although the race operation is seemingly a painstaking process, it is magically reversed between shots later in the movie, making this plot point far stupider than having 007 be a black woman.

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002 Be a Fucking Clown

At a certain point in the early-eighties, James Bond became so goddamned stupid that they gave him literal clown shoes and a red nose in the movie Octopussy. In a getup that would make even the Joker and Harley Quinn blush, James Bond enters a circus arena and defuses a nuclear weapon dressed like Bozo the Clown, Ronald McDonald and Pennywise the Dancing clown had a conference call to decide what to wear that day. However they handle the passing of the baton in the new Bond flick, I can guarantee it cannot be any stupider than James Bond literally running off to join the circus.

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003 Invent Snowboarding

By the time Roger Moore got to his last Bond movie, they had to up the ante on stupid. So in the opening sequence, James Bond turns part of a snowmobile into a snowboard and cowabungas down a Siberian mountain to escape the Ruskies while a shitty synthesizer cover of California Girls blasts in the background. Wow, so fucking stupid.

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004 Surf into North Korea

The last of Pierce Brosnan’s movies, Die Another Day, is chock-filled with shit stupider than being a black woman. In the very first scene, James Bond infiltrates the most reclusive and secretive nation on the planet, a place almost completely cut off from outside influence, literally called “Hidden Kingdom.” Does he parachute in or dig an underground tunnel? No, he fucking surfs right across the 38th Parallel. If Douglas MacArthur tried that, the Korean conflict would definitely not be the “forgotten war.” Hell, even Dennis Rodman wouldn’t try a stunt this stupid. At least they didn’t play a Beach Boys song, that would make it almost as stupid as a later scene in the movie where James Bond gets a chance to…

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005 Be Invisible

Yes, the stupidity of Die Another Day subsides a bit after the surf opening and manages to be a regular movie for a while, even during the Madonna part. But it all goes down hill when the Ministry of Silly Walks from Monty Python shows up and gives Bond a car that makes him invisible. Yes, James Bond gets a gas-powered version of the Harry Potter Cloak of Invisibility. Yeah, I know that the military is developing versions of cloak technology but this was back in 2002, and even the Klingons didn’t have shit that literally made you invisible. Some assholes may think having a black woman as 007 is crazy, but I’m sure we’ll at least be able to see her.

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006 Throw his Peepee at Someone

So the canonicity of Never Say Never is disputed since may consider this to be an “unofficial” James Bond. But as far as I’m concerned, if James Bond is in a movie — especially if Sean Connery is playing him — it’s official. And in this movie, James Bond takes a jar of his own piss and throws it at a guy. For some reason it burns the guys eyes so badly that he falls into a bunch of glass and dies. I haven’t had a lot of urine tossed at me, but I don’t think that’s how it works. I do know that when we finally get a black woman as James Bond, she won’t be drowning her adversaries in piss.

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007 Not Be British

As crazy as it sounds, there has been casting drama around James Bond movies since the first 007 was announced over fifty years ago. Yes, even Sean Connery, widely-regarded as the quintessential James Bond, was controversial pick. Bond purists complained that Connery was Scottish so he couldn’t possibly be a British spy! Fortunately, Ian Fleming retconned Bond’s ancestry in a later 007 novel to give him Scottish roots, putting that furor to bed.

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But even the next James Bond wasn’t British, he was Australian. In fact, it would take over a decade of James Bond movies to finally get a British 007, and he was the guy who literally dressed up like a clown! After Roger Moore, it took another twenty years to get a British James Bond again. Timothy Dalton was born in North Wales. His pops was a Brit but Mom was an American with Italian and Irish roots. I love the Dalt but that’s hardly heraldry to write home about. What about Pierce Brosnan? Well turns out he was born in Ireland and is now a naturalized American citizen. And even when they finally got another British 007 in the form of Daniel Craig, there was still an outcry because — GASP — he was blond! So that means that only a paltry 1/3 of 007s up until now have been British. But guess who is British? Lashana Lynch. She was born and raised right in jolly old London, making her about as British as tea and crumpets or whatever. That’s right, as “crazy” as it sounds making a black woman the new 007, she is actually more qualified to be a British spy than the vast majority of actors who have taken up the designation. And I can tell you one thing, however No Time to Die turns out, Lashana Lynch will not be an invisible, piss-tossing, snowboarding clown in Asian face.

Fear and Loathing in Batuu

Everyone Comes to Oga’s

I’m two drinks in by the time I get into line at Oga’s Cantina. My mom is shitfaced, I’m just a bit punchy. Something pokes me in the back and I spin to see a a couple of First Order Stormtroopers pointing blaster rifles at my gut. In my head, I know that this is “part of the fun.” Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge isn’t just another area of Disneyland, it’s an immersive storytelling experience.

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The Black Spire Outpost on the Planet of Batuu is a galactic Casablanca, Oga’s Cantina the Rick’s Café American. Spies lurk on every corner as tourists drown their sorrows in Dagobah Slug-Slingers. For drama nerds on grad night and anyone off their meds this place is a paradise. But my visceral reaction at being forced into an improv class exercise with a couple of outer-rim concentration camp commandants is to be pissed off. If you read my post Life and Near-Death on Hollywood and Vine you know I have a reason to be “triggered” by a couple of guys in uniform pointing guns at me around tourist attractions. I react accordingly.

“Get your hands off me, Space NAZI!”

I yell it. Like, really loudly. In front of a bunch of tourists. It’s common knowledge that Star Wars Imperial chic is inspired by the wardrobe of the Third Reich, but it’s not exactly something you need to yell at some poor Disneyland cast member sweating under fifty pounds of plastic beneath the Anaheim Summer sun. And yet, there is something unmistakably eerie about these bumbling goose-steppers marching around my favorite theme park. Sure, tourists have been mugging with Captain Hook and Cruella Deville for half a century at Disneyland, but with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, the resort has taken a bizarre turn that threatens to expose the dark underbelly of the Happiest Place on Earth.

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You’ve always been able to buy Stormtrooper costumes and Darth Vader masks, but all the First Order-themed merchandise at Galaxy’s Edge seems a bit perverse in light of White Nationalism’s recent resurgence in the United States. The gift shop features well-pressed uniforms that would make Goebbels proud and little caps that would look at home on the head of Ernest Rohm. You can even purchase a kit of specific First Order rank insignia to track your own rise through the ranks of this Neo-Imperial genocidal galactic power. Why not pick up a recruitment propaganda poster, challenging kids to “protect” and “defend” the galaxy? Perhaps most sickening, is the blood red banner with the stark black cross emblazoned across a white circle. Close your eyes a bit and baby, you’re in Berlin. In a time when White Nationalists chant “Jews will not replace us!” in the streets, the Disney corporation is gleefully rolling in the reichsmarks as they help normalize the fetishization of the Nazi aesthetic.

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But hey, aren’t the Space Nazis the bad guys?

Sure, but the strangest thing about Galaxy’s Edge is the supposed antidote to the First Order’s reign of terror. On the opposite end of Batuu is a gift shop for the Resistance, offering an array of sartorial homages to Mid-Century Communist Chic. Blink for a moment and you’d think you were in a military surplus store out in Burbank rustling around for Salvador Allende cosplay accouterments. Purchase yourself a Che Guevara-like fatigue jacket or a Fidel Castro-inspired military cap. Family fun for everyone.

So this is Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. One side is a Sieg Heil to Haute Couture, the other a pret-a-porter Politburo. In the middle? A food court. I hate to say it, but Batuu is the perfect expression of our nation’s current political polarization. Nationalists on one end of the spectrum, Socialists on the other, and the vast majority of people mindlessly gnawing on kettle corn in the center.

Stop Yelling at Me!

Earlier that afternoon I’m sitting around the Millennium Falcon Holochess table while a kid explains to me everything I’ve missed in the Star Wars universe since the Disney takeover — some shit about how Darth Maul got robot legs and why Ahsoka Tano has white light-sabers or whatever. Meanwhile, I elucidate the parallels between Palpatine’s ascension from Chancellor to Emperor and Hitler’s rise from Chancellor to Fuhrer.

A “cast member” calls out for the Red Group and we assemble with the rest of our flight crew. She delivers a well-rehearsed instructional monologue “in character” and I channel the power of the Force to prevent my eyes from rolling into the back of my skull. We clamber into the cockpit of the Falcon, I’m assigned an engineer slot, the kid is a gunner and a middle-aged couple are the pilots. The ride begins and I dutifully push the flashing buttons while the kid fires volley after volley of blaster fire. Meanwhile, the two pilots flail miserably about the controls and the Falcon careens against rocky walls as our shields falter. The squeaky-voiced kid suddenly turns into a seasoned Rebel officer, barking commands at the pilots.

“Pull up!” he shouts. The pilots shake their heads in confusion. “Push the lever!” he yells desperately.

“I’m trying!” the lady howls.

We seem to smash into every obstacle imaginable as the Falcon wobbles towards destruction. “PULL UP!” the kid tries again.

“Stop yelling at me!” the adult woman whines at the top of her lungs, like a sullen baby being scolded at.

I cackle with glee. So far this is my favorite part of the new attraction. The ride is whatever but watching a grown-up lose her mind from getting yelled at by a child is the most entertaining shit I’ve seen in years. Talk about immersive. The ride lurches to a stop and we all file out, the pilots storming off grumbling in embarrassment. I turn to the kid and admit, “I think you were the captain of that ship dude.”

The kid shrugs. “I guess. That lady didn’t need to be so mean though.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I assure him, “the Force will be with you, always.”

“And may the Force be with you,” the kid nods.

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The Lonely Debutante

It’s been a strange summer in Anaheim. Analysts and insiders had predicted huge crowds and agonizing congestion around the resort thanks to the highly-anticipated opening of the Galaxy’s Edge attraction. In fact, Disney did such a good job hyping up what a mob scene the ribbon-cutting season would be, that everyone took the hint and stayed away. Annual pass-holders were blacked out, locals were warned away and many tourists decided to hold off on visiting until the supposed frenzy died down. Galaxy’s Edge is far far away from a failure but somehow managed not to live up to everyone’s expectations of mass chaos.

Disneyland is like the haughty debutante who was so selective about whom she invited to her coming out party, that when the big day arrived, no one came. So Bob Iger sits alone into the empty ballroom, softly weeping into his tax returns.

Underlying the underwhelming opening Galaxy’s Edge are the ridiculous price-hikes made in anticipation of the new attraction. Normal families aren’t just turned off from visiting the resort, they’re priced out. This isn’t consumer frustration. It’s theme park gentrification. The result? The park has been a ghost town all summer. Hours-long rides have become walk-ons, normally congested walkways are near-empty and the park finally feels like the promised land of Walt’s delusional nostalgia-induced hallucinations.

I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the House of Mouse: That price-gouging the imagination of children has a limit. That monopolizing the memories of whole families has a breaking point. I dream of a Disneyland dark age. Roaming scavengers wandering the wasteland of the Happiest Place on Earth while stale popcorn kernels roll across the pavement like so many tumbleweeds. I smile at the thought of riding empty train cars in circles around Thunder Mountain ’till the sun sets. But before you label a crazed communist, some anti-capitalist crypto-currency counter-insurgent, let me make one thing abundantly explicit. Allow me to clear the air:

I am a Disney shareholder

Yes, I invested in a business I pray will fail. Not for financial gain, but to exercise a modicum of control over a company that has quickly and quietly gobbled our entire childhood, threatening to own the exclusive streaming rights to our collective imagination. I have Force visions of majority shareholders’ vast fortunes crumbling into oblivion like Malibu mansions gobbled up in climate-induced global catastrophe. Meanwhile I cackle in my ivory nonprofit tower as I use my worthless Disney stock for beverage coasters. Some investors expect a reasonable rate of return. Others want an opportunity to poke holes in executive golden parachutes with sharpened Churros. I yearn for Project Mayhem and Operation Goldeneye wrapped into one exclusive all-expenses-paid vacation to a day of reckoning for the ruling class.

The outlet mall at the edge of the galaxy

Opinions have been split among Disneyland fans and Star Wars buffs since Galaxy’s Edge was announced. To some Disney purists, adding a new section of the park is blasphemy. Many Star Wars fans cynically complain that the new attraction is a sickening display of Disney’s efforts to squeeze every last cent out of the franchise. I’m somewhere in between. I’m always interested to see new advancements in Imagineering, but often chafe at changes to my beloved park. I once called the Disneyland smoking section the “last bastion of freedom in America” before they turned it into a walkway to Galaxy’s Edge. When I found out you could no longer buy toy guns in Frontierland, I poured out a Dasani bottle in disgust and declared “this is the day Disneyland died.”

Yes, I will always miss Uncle Bruce chain-smoking cigarettes in front of the Rivers of America, smiling while my cousin and I pistol-whipped each other with orange-tipped Colt Peacemakers. But as Kylo Ren once wisely said: “Let the past die, kill it if you have to.”

The good news is, wherever your opinions lie, Galaxy’s Edge is good for Disneyland. The expansion has greatly improved the entire flow of the park, clearing up the usual congestion by allowing guests a way to take larger laps around the resort. This means fewer people clogging up the lines and walkways of the old attractions. If you are pissing your pants in anticipation of exploring Batuu, the attraction’s location at the back of the resort and the pissed-offedness of the park purists leaves Galaxy’s Edge honestly less crowded than the Citadel Outlet mall you see on the way to the park. If you’re a Disneyland fundamentalist, Galaxy’s Edge will clear out the rest of the park for your enjoyment. As the Master Qui-Gon once said: “Either way, you win.”

But what’s it like?

Honestly, Galaxy’s Edge is pretty cool. The Bisti Badland-like spires of Batuu blend beautifully with the Bryce Canyon-inspired hoodoos of Thunder Mountain. The skillful use of forced perspective makes the relatively contained area seem like it spans for miles. I’m not the first to say that the sight of a full-sized Millennium Falcon made me tear up a bit. And the fact that you can’t even catch a glimpse of the rest of the park, let alone the outside world, makes Galaxy’s Edge feel as immersive as advertised. It doesn’t quite feel like you’ve landed on another planet, but it does feel like you’ve been loaded into a hub-world level of the Knights of the Old Republic video game. At the end of the day, the Millennium Falcon is the best place to watch the fireworks in the whole park and Oga’s Cantina is the only place in the where you can grab a drink. Galaxy’s Edge isn’t the first place I head to in the park these days, but it’s usually where I end up.

A galaxy of stars sparkle above my head as I stroll the streets of Batuu waiting for the fireworks to start. I see a familiar figure lumbering toward me. The Mighty Chewbacca. It’s funny, I know he’s just an off-season college basketball player in a furry suit, but I feel the same way I do when I used to see a friend in the hall at school.

“Hey Chewie,” I tilt my hat.

“Narf narf narf narf narf,” Chewie nods with recognition and pats me on the shoulder as if to say “good to see you!”

It’s a simple illusion in a park filled with smoke and mirrors, but it’s an effective one. I’ve “known” Chewie all my life so naturally he “knows” me too. So when he greets me as an old friend, everything around me turns stunningly real.

I’d love to stay and play a round of Holochess, but Chewie is a busy beast. He waves goodbye and walks over to a young boy in a wheelchair. The mighty Wookie leans to one knee, and the starstruck boy beams with happiness from the confines of his chair. My liberal guilt glands go into overdrive seeing someone with different abilities than the other children treated with dignity and respect. I find myself weeping openly on the outskirts the Black Spire Outpost. Those Strormtroopers may not have be real bad guys, but this dude in the Chewbacca getup is a real good guy. America may continue goosestepping towards corporate-sponsored authoritarianism until Disney owns the rights to the Constitution itself. But if all this Resistance bullshit tells us anything, it’s that no entity is powerful enough to control us all. Disney may own the rights to Star Wars, but the Force belongs to us.

See you at the park.

Doom at 25 and DUSK at Dawn

The first person shooter (FPS) is a mainstay of modern gaming. From the yearly churn of AAA titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield to genre-benders and indie games like Superhot and Portal, it’s clear to see that FPS are big business. It’s been a controversial journey to the top. In an industry legendary for its insanely graphic portrayals of senseless violence, FPS have a reputation for being the most depraved and dangerous variety of games. This week marks the 25th anniversary of Doom, the game that blew the doors off the genre. As veteran gamers ruminate on a quarter century of strafe-strafe-shoot, there’s a unique opportunity to reflect on the cultural impact of first person shooters.

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The original Doom title screen.

To most gamers, playing a FPS is relaxing way to blow off some steam. But to non-gamers, there is something terrifying about millions of young men stepping into the shoes of mass killers and mowing down legions of enemies. In a world where mass shootings have sparked a divisive culture war over America’s unique gun culture, FPS can seem as tasteless at best and enabling at worst. Sure, Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto have been lambasted for their shocking violence too, but these are third person games. There is a certain disconnect inherit with controlling a character from the outside. Yes, you may control the game but you are watching someone else do your bidding. When the game is first person, there is no denying that it is you who is perpetrating the destruction.

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Doom lets you mow down legions of demons and mutated zombie soldiers.

Doom wasn’t the first FPS but it defined the genre for nearly a decade. It introduced multiplayer to the fold. It pushed graphics to the next level, making players feel like they were part of a three-dimensional world. Doom ushered in a generation of modders and level editors who created their own custom versions of the game called WADS. Many of these individuals went on to successful careers as game designers. Doom was also the first FPS to garner major public backlash. The powder keg was the Columbine shooting, when it was discovered that the two boys who committed the heinous act were avid Doom players.

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The Columbine shooters would have committed their crimes without the help of violent games.

A false narrative emerged that Doom was the gateway drug of teen violence. Innocent children would be turned into psychotic killers from playing violent shooters as the thinking went. At the time I knew that this theory was patently absurd and all the evidence around the behavior of gamers conducted in the ensuing decades have supported this refutation. One study showed that aggressive games like football were more likely to bring out a young man’s violent tendencies than video games.

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Playing Football is far wore for teenage boys than playing Doom

Disproving the game-to-violence pipeline is as easy as debunking the gateway drug theory. Does everyone who smokes weed become a heroin addict? Of course not. But those predisposed to be heroin addicts are gonna smoke some weed on the way to hitting bottom. Weed is a checkpoint drug, not a gateway. The same goes for FPS. My friends played as much Doom as the Columbine shooters and you know how many of us went on to become mass shooters? Uh…none. That being said, the kind of guys who think it’s a cool idea to pepper the school library with a few rounds and toss some pipebombs around the cafeteria are also probably going to play some Doom along the way. So FPS are part of the culture of mass shootings but they are not the cause or even the symptom. Doom is window dressing in the grand tragedy of America’s mass shooting epidemic.

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Nearly two decades after Columbine, kids still don’t feel safe at school.

A quarter century later, Doom lives on. The franchise is no longer the top dog in the genre but it remains relatively relevant. The newest entry can be enjoyed on a variety of platforms. You can play it on your PC like back in the old days, lean back on your couch with an Xbox controller, cart it around on your Nintendo Switch, or even experience the game in virtual reality on PS4. The original version continues to be sold on the popular Steam platform and the mod community is still at it, producing a steady stream of WADs every year. The website Doomworld even does gives out awards to the best WADs each year, sort of an online Oscars for Doom levels. Various modders have created higher-resolution versions of the game, including a fan who used neural networks to upscale the graphics. The original designer John Romero even announced that he will be releasing a new episode of the original game, a “Megawad” as they are called.

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DUSK is a thrilling throwback to the heyday of classic shooters.

The hotly anticipated FPS DUSK was also launched this week (read my review here). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the game dropped on the day of Doom’s quarter century anniversary. The game certainly owes a lot to the granddaddy of shooters and its spiritual sequel Quake. It’s also indebted to some of the forgotten gems that emerged as part of the wave of Doom “clones” released in the mid-nineties such as Duke Nukem 3D, Redneck Rampage among others. DUSK is wildly violent and genuinely disturbing in many respects. It’s also glib and cartoonish, reminding players that despite all the bloodshed, first person shooters are pretty ridiculous and anyone who plays one and then goes on to perpetrate a mass shooting has problems that go way beyond playing video games. After all, video games don’t shoot people, guns do.

Life and Near-Death on Hollywood and Vine

Sirens are blazing as I crouch in my car, breathing hard, hands shaking. I peek over the dash at the black sports car that just crashed into me during a high-speed pursuit with the police. The cops are swarming the vehicle, guns drawn, yelling orders at the suspect. The guns are aimed at him and therefore me. I realize I’m caught in the potential crossfire. I make eye contact with one of the officers. He motions his gun down slightly and I’ve seen enough movies to take the hint.

GET DOWN.

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I hit the deck and try to remain still, try to stay calm. I glance at the passenger side window and see swarms of tourists with their phones out filming. I can see the questions in their eyes. Is this real? Is this a movie? I know all too well it isn’t make believe. I start to wonder, is this how it all ends? Do I die on a hot summer night in a shootout on the corner of Hollywood and Vine?

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Four days earlier I’m standing on the sidewalk as vintage cars circle the block during the filming of a Hollywood movie. It’s a 1960s period piece starring Christian Bale as legendary race car driver Ken Miles.

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My whole neighborhood has been converted into the decade of Kennedy and the Beatles, James Bond and Jane Fonda. They’ve restored the store fronts to their mid century former glory, replaced the street lamps, park benches and mailboxes with period accurate relics, and lined the streets with dozens of classic cars. Every anachronism has been removed to transport the neighborhood into the past. Hundreds of crew-members equipped with millions of dollars of equipment have taken over four square blocks to create this grand illusion, this epic testament to the suspension of disbelief.

But I’m not here to gawk or celeb stalk. I’m just trying to walk my dog Moneypenny over to the convenience store to get a bottle of Coke.

A PA armed with a walk-in talkie outstretches his hand before I cross the street.

“Can you hold? We’re about to do a take.”

“Sure,” I shrug as the dog paws at the PAs feet, “I wouldn’t want to disrupt the space time continuum.”

Another voice across the street yells “Rolling!” An army of crew repeat the order and then a disembodied voice calls out “ACTION!”

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The street comes to life as a glossy facsimile of five decades ago. Extras in period garb cross the street. A huge metal bus lurches around a corner past the restored store front. A man in a beautiful white convertible zooms down the street. From the other side of the intersection, a pretty young lady with her hair up, eyes masked by turtle shell sunglasses, putt putts an old green Chevy with exaggerated fins down the block. I notice no one is smoking and I can’t help but laugh. Hollywood never get things exactly right.

After less than a minute, the word “CUT!” echoes down the street and the PA motions for me to continue my stroll. I lead the dog past the sign that reads “Businesses Open During Filming.” A week earlier this tiny strip mall was half empty and slightly dilapidated, a sad husk of mid century real estate. Some thrifty location scout had seen the potential in this building and nursed it back to health. The liquor store and laundromat have been repainted with period signage. I smile at the antiquated prices they advertise. The empty storefronts have been converted into movie sets. I notice one of them has a two liter plastic bottle of Shasta soda with modern labels. I chuckle again. Never exactly right.

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The proprietor of the laundromat is in high spirits, standing in front of his store holding court as he watches the filming. He’s full of gossip, telling us that “Matt Damien” is going to be in the movie. He seems at home in the middle of the action, and announces that he’ll be running the dryers free of charge all week as compensation for the hassle to his customers.

The owner of the liquor store is less enthusiastic. The filming has scared off his usual clientele and the film crew is too well fed by craft services to give him any business. I repeat my joke about disrupting the space time continuum which fails to garner a smile. I pay for my bottle of Coke and lead the dog off the cool tile floor back into the sunshine of the 1960s.

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Four days later I’m driving down Hollywood Boulevard toward’s Mann’s Chinese theater. I had just got my car back from the shop four days earlier after a fender-bender and am enjoying my first real drive in my newly-fixed auto. My wife is with my in-laws so I’m treating myself to a night at the movies. I remember the last time I was on the Boulevard. I saw Spiderman getting arrested. There’s always free entertainment in Tinseltown. At the corner of Hollywood and Vine I cruise into the left hand turn lane. As I yield I hear sirens approach. I spot a black sports car barreling down the opposite left hand turn lane. I assume he is planning to make a turn as well but he does not yield. It’s too late to do anything by the time I realize he isn’t stopping. I raise my hands in front of my face and brace for impact.

I’m sitting at the edge of the couch, a rum and Coke shaking in my hand. I can’t get the moment of the crash out of my mind. I close my eyes so hard I see spots. I have trouble breathing and put my hands in front of my face as though the car is still coming at me.

The force of the head-on collision sends my head thrashing backwards against the headrest. I lower my hands to get a better look at the person behind the wheel of the other car. The glass is tinted. I can’t make out the face of the individual. The car is the only face I see, a monster with a mangled bumper snarling at me. The invisible driver guns the engine, sending my car ten feet backwards in the intersection. He tries to reverse, but our bumpers are intertwined. Two beasts locked together in combat, defending their driver. Before he tries to drive forward again, I slam the car into park and yank the emergency break back as hard as I can.

THIS SONNOVABITCH ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE.

Two days later I’m standing in front of an X-Ray machine. The cops need to know how badly I’m injured. It could be the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony for the man who nearly killed me. The technician snaps the first image and tells me to turn to my right for the next. It feels like they’re taking a mugshot. For a second I put myself in the shoes of the guy responsible for it all. What was he doing that night? What was he running from?

I return from the doctor’s office in better spirits. My shoulders are throbbing, my neck aches and my back feels as crumpled as my bumper. But I’m happy to be all in one piece. I take Penny for a walk to the liquor store and the park. The place is swarming with crew and cars queued up for the next take. As Penny rolls contentedly in the grass, she attracts the attention of a couple of the background actors leaning against their vintage car enjoying a smoke and we strike up a conversation.

“So do you guys own these cars?” I ask, genuinely intrigued.

“Yep,” the man affirms proudly.

“So they put out a casting call for actors with vintage cars?”

“That’s what we do.”

It turns out this is a whole cottage industry in Hollywood. People who make a living driving old cars in period films.

“They want to make the films as accurate as possible,” he explains before leaning in conspiratorially, “although technically this scene takes place in 1963 and my car’s a ’65.”

Hollywood. They never quite get it exactly right. The guy tells me about some of the other pictures he’s worked on and complains that Quentin Tarantino doesn’t pay well.

“He’s doing a movie about the Sharon Tate murders. You know, Manson.”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” I nod.

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I can see the crowd gathered around me on Hollywood Boulevard, holding their phones as they film the grizzly scene. A man in the apartment above gets the establishing shot. A man with a selfie-stick on the opposite corner gets some coverage. Eight police cars are visible, with more to arrive. At least a dozen police officers are taking cover behind open car doors with their guns aimed at the black sports car. The man filming above posts it on Instagram with the caption “One of the bonuses of living in Hollywood…you’re never short of free entertainment.” I’m pinned down in the car below, an unwilling extra in the free live show. I understand but resent the peering phones pointed at my position, filming me like a caged animal.

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My phone follows the vintage station wagon drive down the street. Of all the fancy, rare cars that have been driving around our block the past week, this was the one I was compelled to shoot a video of. When my mom was a kid, her mom used to drive an old station wagon like that. I’ve seen plenty of sports cars in old movies but not grandma’s station wagon. Mom told me about the time they went to see 101 Dalmations at the drive in. Her and her little brother got in their pajamas and hopped in the back of the station wagon. But when they arrived, the movie was sold out.

My mom had a pretty happy childhood I think. There’s only three sad stories she ever tells me about the 1960s: The day she broke her front teeth on a skateboard, the day John Kennedy died and the night they had to turn that station wagon around without seeing the movie.

A voice calls out “CUT!” and the cars lurch to a stop. The woman driving the station wagon looks at me and I sheepishly put the phone away.

“Did you get it?” she asks.

“Uh yeah.”

“Can you send it to me?”

“Sure.”

I open my wallet and pull out a business card, but she yells out her phone number instead. Anachronisms are allowed between takes I suppose. I type in the number and send the video. A PAs radio squawks that it’s time to setup the next shot. The woman in the station wagon yells “Thanks!” and drives back to her position. I cross the street and pull out the phone again. Might as well get a reverse angle. A police officer steps into the street to stop the oncoming traffic so the film crew can get their shot too.

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Crouched in my wounded vehicle, I stare in disbelief as the officers charge down Hollywood Boulevard with their guns drawn, barking orders. From the show of force I assume my attacker is extremely dangerous. Is he armed? Would it matter? I think of all the young men gunned down for less if anything at all. So many guns. I’ve never seen so many guns. It looks like a damn movie. But it’s not. I’m in shock. Disbelief. I can only think of one thing. No one will ever believe this. So I scramble for my phone and start filming. As I lift the black object above the dashboard I hope no one thinks it’s a gun.

It’s twenty-four hours later and I’m watching the brief video over and over again. I inspect every detail like it’s the Zapruder film. I’m trying to figure out how many officers there were. How many guns were drawn. I switch back and forth between my footage and the footage of the guy in the apartment above. It’s not enough. There were so many people filming while this happened. Where hell did it all go? I scour social media trying to find just a second more video, find that angle that would help it all make sense. All those people with that video of me and I couldn’t access a frame of it.

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It’s magic hour in Hollywood. The villain of the movie that’s become my life sticks his hands out of the car in a sign of surrender. The police officers continue to yell at him to get out of the car. I dare to peek a bit higher above the dashboard. He opens the door and slowly moves into the street. I see the officers follow his movements with their sidearms. I sigh breath of relief as I realize the weapons are no longer facing in my direction. The suspect lies down and the officers approach from his left in a practiced formation, stiff as tin soldiers. I open the driver’s side door and take cover behind it. A police officer appears to my left.

“C’mon sir.”

I nod and he escorts me to the sidewalk. I glance back and see the other officers handcuffing the suspect. I turn back to the sidewalk and am greeted by a firing squad of cameras and phones pointed at me. I look down to hide my face and see stars. The Hollywood Walk of Fame. I see the names of Kirk Douglas and Jimmy Stewart etched into the grimy sidewalk.

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Three days later I’m watching Matt Damon’s stunt double belt Christian Bale’s in the face. Director James Mangold calls “CUT!” This is the disembodied voice I’ve heard all week. The real Matt Damon and Christian Bale emerge before the cameras. Bale looks like a nondescript middle aged man in good shape. I wouldn’t have recognized him from this far away. Damon’s face on the other hand is unmistakable. Mangold calls out “ACTION!” and I gawk as I finally get the answer to “who would win in a fight, Batman or Jason Bourne?” I won’t spoil it for you.

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The suspect is being escorted to a squad car. An officer tells me to sit down. Are you kidding me? I’m not sitting down on Hollywood Boulevard. He asks me what happened and I give him a brief statement. I keep my cool, start laughing even, trying to shake it off like I’m some guy in a movie. I glance to the officers still in the street and quip, “that was actually pretty badass!” like I was some kid who just got off a roller coaster. Strangers crowd around me and I tell the story over and over again as they film me. I keep talking. It’s the only thing that keeps me calm. People offer me drinks and pat me on the back.

“You’re a hero dude!” one bystander says.

“You’re famous man!” his friend adds

“Technically you stopped that guy!” a lady comments. I laugh, technically she’s right. I did stop him.

The officers try to convince me to go to the hospital. I’m not going to sit in the back of an ambulance with a gray blanket wrapped around me like some pathetic victim. I act like one of the guys. I stand around the officers with my arms crossed, cracking wise and retelling the story.

“Of course it all happened on Hollywood in Vine,” I shake my head in disbelief.

“It’s Hollywood,” of the officers remarks. Helluva time for a Chinatown reference.

The sun has almost set but I keep my Ray-Ban aviators on like I’ve been deputized by the highway patrol. After all, I’m technically the guy who stopped the perp. The officers joke that they’ll tell my wife I tackled the suspect single-handedly and handcuffed himself.

My wife.

I see her emerge onto the corner of Hollywood and Vine. She’s radiant. My leading lady. Penny’s at her side, our trusted sidekick. We all three embrace.

The tow trucks have arrived. Our vehicles are still locked in combat. The sports car is crumpled but my VW still looks like he’s still in fighting shape. German engineering. The tow truck tries to pull the sports car away from mine but they’re stuck together, like two boxers who refuse to give up. The officers have me get behind the wheel of my car and put it in reverse. No joy. The cars are fused together.

“Looks like they’ve bonded,” an officer jokes. I recognize him as the guy who motioned for me to get down in the car. One of the other cops has an idea.

“What if we have the two trucks pull them apart?”

“Draw and quarter them like an old Western?” I chuckle.

The officer nods. I smile. Only in Hollywood.

It’s magic hour in our little neighborhood. Penny and I stand outside our building as the film crew finishes their last shot. The rent-a-cop outside our building tells me to hold. The disembodied voice calls out “ACTION!” and the street comes to life as the 1960s once more. The old cars prowl the streets as the young actors stroll the sidewalks. I see an iPhone in the passenger seat of one of the cars. Hollywood. Never quite gets it right.

“CUT!” the action stops, “That’s a wrap!”

The cast of vintage drivers cheers. I can’t help but smile. The police officers open the street back up to traffic and I see my wife pulling into our block. My leading lady.

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It’s twilight on Hollywood and Vine when the two cars are finally loaded up onto their respective tow trucks. The driver assigned to the sports car is a massive man and he pulls the bumper off my car with his bare hands and tosses it onto the other truck. The round “VW” insignia on the front of my car falls to the street. I pick up the reflective shield and wipe it off with my shirt. Not a single scratch. German engineering.

The next day I’m on the phone with LAPD. The driver was twenty-three. No insurance. Drunk as a skunk, blew twice the legal limit on a Breathalyzer. He wasn’t a bank robber or a murderer, just a stupid drunk kid who almost killed me in a Nissan Z with tacky decals. It’s just the same. I’m not the lawsuit type anyway. I’d feel greedy going after some rich old bastard. No use suing some dumb kid whose got nothing. There’s only one thing I want.

“I hope this kid turns his life around,” I tell the officer, “and I hope someday he has a chance to apologize to me.”

The stars in the sky mirror the ones in the pavement on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. The tow trucks are lurching off and the officers are starting to disperse. There’s some old guy in uniform telling the boys in blue what a good job they all did. Not a word of praise for me, the “hero” of the film. At least according to my adoring fans on the sidewalk. Hollywood. They never quite get it exactly right.

With my wife in arm and dog at my feet, I glance back at the corner of Hollywood and Vine one more time. Next to Jimmy and Kirk I notice a name I didn’t see on the walk of fame before. Edgar R. Murrow. I think of his catchphrase and smile as the black sports car is towed into the horizon.

“Good night and good luck,” I muse.

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