Monday, April 20, 2015


Ever since I started doing the “whole history of my life” series over at The Pink Smoke (which you should all read if you haven’t yet), I’ve started to get a little more personal with my writing here on PINNLAND EMPIRE.
Unfortunately, I lost over 2,000 words in the sixth entry in the series and I don’t have it in me to re-write/revisit what I wrote at the moment (kidney disease, diabetes, etc). Until then, take this lil' gem as a “light" entry in the whole history of my life…

"Little Bomb"

I usually avoid most best foreign film nominees during Oscar season because I never feel that they best represent world/international cinema. Naturally there are a few exceptions like Dogtooth (2009/10), The White Ribbon (2009) & Timbuktu (2014), but generally speaking, movies up for the best foreign film Oscar are always a little "safe" and/or weak for my taste.
Because of this movie-snob defiance of mine, I avoided Wild Tales at first. Besides the fact that it just seemed to show up out of nowhere at the last minute pretty much for the sole purpose of being nominated for awards (in the U.S. at least), I thought it was another one of those multi-character/multi-storyline movies where everything & everyone is somehow connected like in Pulp Fiction or Crash. In 2015 I want NOTHING to do with those kinds of movies anymore (unless of course someone brings something new to the table). But when I discovered that the six stories in Wild Tales were separate and in no way connected (outside of some common themes) I made it a point to see it at BAM and I was pleasantly surprised.

What a rare beast in this post-Pulp Fiction world we live in - a film with separate/unconnected short stories.

While all six (WILD) tales do touch on the same subjects & issues (revenge, coincidence, class, privilege & entitlement), the two middle stories (“The Strongest” & “Little Bomb”, respectively) stood out to me more than anything else.
On the surface both stories play out like that famous Chapelle Show skit; “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong”...

“The Strongest” centers on two men who take their road rage with each other WAY too far while the appropriately titled “Little Bomb” is about a guy who allows his rage to get the best of him on multiple occasions until it becomes incredibly detrimental. Self control & anger are what binds these two middle stories together and is also what separates them from the rest. The first two (“Pasternak”& “The Rats”) are Pedro Almodovar-ian quirky dark tales about revenge (Almodovar served as a producer on this film), while the last two (“The Proposal” & “Until Death Do Us Part”) are about entitlement & dishonesty among the Argentinean upper-class.
Some of the themes in the bookend stories do seep in to "The Strongest" & "Little Bomb". I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the two guys who clash with each other in "The Strongest" are on opposite ends of the economic scale. And our main character in "Little Bomb" has this strange sense of entitlement (like some of the characters in "The Proposal") and feels that he’s never in the wrong.

But anger & rage are the real issues in the third & fourth stories of Wild Tales...

As I sat watching the [MALE] protagonists ruin their lives over petty nonsense in these stories I couldn’t help but see shades of myself (and just men in general) who have a difficult time letting shit go. The drama in both stories is sparked off by a middle finger ("The Strongest") and the defiance to pay a parking ticket ("Little Bomb"). Seriously, that's it. This film struck a chord in me so much that I mentioned it in a recent therapy session (side note – if you have the means, I recommend any & everyone, especially men who are looking to figure life out, to seek out therapy). I love movies but outside of certain specific films (see: the whole history of my life) I don’t often relate the movies I see to my own personal life (I know that may sound hard to believe but it's true). But Wild Tales was different. And what's strange is that overall this movie was just "pretty good". It's not even a personal favorite of mine.

a driver flipping the bird to another driver in "The Strongest" before things get out of hand

I know I’ve been getting very gender specific on here recently but I don’t really see too many women getting in to fatal roadside physical altercations over a middle finger, or conspiring to blow up the department of motor vehicles over a bullshit parking ticket. Sure plenty of women will get loud and/or belligerent in the face of something they feel is unfair (even at times when they’re in the wrong) but men are far worse in my opinion. When you hear stories of a mass shooting rooted in rage, or an explosion going off or a fatal case of road rage, 9 times out of 10 there’s a man with some bullshit sense of entitlement, behind it.

The longer I’ve lived in New York City and worked as an architectural draftsman, the more stressed & anxious I’ve become. Furthermore, I tend to (momentarily) take a lot of stupid and/or uncontrollable things personally like the characters in the middle section of Wild Tales. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but when I’m on the subway and the service starts to go to shit (which it does a lot these days. You’re awful NYC MTA) I get so mad that I have these momentary thoughts of screaming at the train conductor (as if it’s his fault that the service is delayed) or screaming at the sick person on the train holding me up from being on time (as if they decided to suddenly get sick on the train just to screw my day up like I’m that important). When people shove their way on to the train before I have the chance to step off (which is fucking rude), I sometimes want to use my size (6’-3”, 260lbs) to push people out of the way. But as an adult I can't/shouldn't do that (I actually used to do that in my younger days but I’ve since cooled off).

I had a kidney transplant a few years ago. Because of this I’m forced to deal with health insurance companies for the rest of my life (once you have a kidney transplant you have to take anti-rejection medication forever and have to get semi-frequent check-ups). As some of you can imagine, dealing with health insurance companies is a major hassle. You’re trying to fix a situation or get a prescription refilled yet you’re dealing with a nameless dope/humanoid robot reading from a script that usually provides no help to your predicament. Again when this kind of stuff happens – I get so worked up that I develop these scenarios in my head where I find the headquarters to my health insurance company and show up and kick the shit out of everyone who works in the building. But seconds later I calm down and realize how silly that is. Sometimes dealing with health insurance companies becomes so aggravating that I get unnecessarily rude and entitled as if there aren’t millions of other people in the same position as me. That's when I have to breath for a second and realize that the world is bigger than me.

And in all honesty, had I taken care of my health issues earlier on in life, I wouldn't have needed a kidney transplant. This would have eliminated the endless prescription refills and annoying health insurance nonsense.
Some health issues are uncontrollable but in my case I had the power to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid all the shit I deal with today. There's a quote from Todd Haynes' Safe that applies directly to my specific situation...

Nobody out there made you sick. You know that. The only person who can make you get sick is you, right? Whatever the sickness, if our immune system is damaged... it's because we have allowed it to be...

Now...there's a lot more to that quote, but on some level what he's saying is kind of true. But we'll dig a little deeper in to my organ failure at some point later this year in part six of the whole history of my life.

"The Strongest"
"Little Bomb"

I work in the design industry as an architectural draftsman. Architecture, design & space planning involves non-stop changes, revisions, additions & reconfigurations. I’m also in an industry where folks will get caught up on text size & font style and where it should be placed on a drawing (seriously, at my previous job we used to spend 45-60 minutes debating shit like this). Basically – nothing is ever finished even when it is finished (make sense?). Unfortunately, I have the kind of personality that when things are done I like them to be done. For good. I’m just not a very nitpicky person. As you can imagine, I’m probably in the wrong industry (going on 11 years now). For years, I used to take all the nitpicky font size analysis and endless revision bullshit personally. I was nasty with my coworkers as if they were trying to make my life miserable when in fact it had nothing to do with them. It’s just the nature of the beast combined with my incompatible personality. The only person to place blame on is myself for taking things so personally. The industry of architecture & design is much bigger than me. No sense in getting worked up over a system I can't/don’t want to change. Had the main character in "Little Bomb" stopped for a minute and realized that he was trying to fight an almost unbeatable system that was bigger than him (and that he was placing blame on everyone & everything but himself) things would have worked out a lot better.

Not being able to let go is ultimately why our protagonists in "The Strongest" & "Little Bomb" meet their downfall. Sure it’s frustrating dealing with the DMV but you can’t resort to acts of terrorism in order to get your way. Yeah sometimes folks drive recklessly on the highway but flipping them off and insulting them, like in "The Strongest", isn’t going to make anyone a better driver. All throughout these two stories in Wild Tales our characters place blame on everyone & everything and hold grudges so deep that they end up dead or in jail.
I’m learning more & more how to not place blame on New York City or the MTA or my coworkers when something doesn’t go my way. Letting go is hard, but living longer (and happier) sounds a lot better.


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