Vladimir “Nipples” Putin had best back off because I ain’t going through this crap again.
NUCLEAR WAR DREAMS… I don’t care for nightmares. One of the best parts of letting myself go fat-wise and the resulting sleep apnea is that I dream a lot less. And why would I want to dream? Every other night it’s going to be ratcheting tensions, spinning newspaper headlines, mass panic, saying goodbye to pets, air raid sirens…. then, then it’s over. I never had a nuclear war dream that got beyond the actual explosion. Two reasons for this: First, I am the center of attention, and Ivan has his ICBMs pointed directly at me. Second, by some profound cruelty, nuclear war dreams always seemed to overlap with another type of dream commonly found in teenage boys. The mushroom cloud seemed as good a place as any to finish.
HAVING TO TREAT THE DAY AFTER AS A SERIOUS FILM BEYOND REPROACH… My nerd friends: Imagine if Peter Jackson had made absolute hash of The Lord of the Rings, a text you had been envisioning in your mind for as long as you could remember –like dropping the character Sam halfway thru because of network time-constraints. That’s what ABC did to The Day After and JoBeth Williams’ character. I had constructed a whole post-nuke Middle Earth of death, destruction, and feral dogs in my fevered brain. Instead, The Day After managed to make atomic bombs boring, menacing only in their ability to turn a frame of stock footage “negative.” Instead of JoBeth Williams going all Mom-from-Poltergeist and kicking nuclear war’s ass, we get Jason Robards crying over THE LAST ONION. Everyone had to watch it for a discussion in class the next, but as soon as someone would call attention to a gaping plot hole or hackneyed dialog, my history teacher would admonish us to treat it as “important.”
If you really want a harrowing nuclear war film without clichés, try Jane Alexander in Testament.
DUCKING AND COVERING… At Manasquan Elementary on Long Island, we had two “air raid” drills a year. My third grade teacher, Miss Volpe, added her own editorials to them. She was a bit of a Cassandra; for a unit on ecology, she solemnly informed us that by the time we graduated from high school, we would need to wear gas masks to go outside. For one particular drill, as we moved into the hallway to curl up in little snotty balls against the walls, Miss Volpe strode up and down among us declaring, “If a bomb really dropped, this wouldn’t help you at all.” I remember a girl named Isabella begin to cry and shake. Miss Volpe was indeed helpless.
GASPING AT INOCUOUS THINGS… In high school, first period began at 7:20am, otherwise known as dawn. Clouds looked amazing in that light. So did jet contrails. Just as I rounded the comer to go up the NE stairwell, I chanced to glance out of one of the only east-facing windows in the school. There gleaming orange and black in the pre-dawn light were a half dozen or so contrails extending up from the horizon to Chicago, St. Louis, or Minneapolis –wherever Ivan had targeted. I stopped and stared. Anthony Selley came up behind me. “You know that’s exactly what it’ll look like.”
I have also stopped short for the rising moon, transformer explosions, and random tests of the emergency broadcast system.
THAT F*CKING STING SONG… I know that Sting is more than capable of writing a serviceable nuclear war song. See “Walking in your Footsteps,” which contains nice beats and subtle analogies. Then someone had to blow smoke up Sting’s ass while mouthing the words “You’re a genius.” (Look up ‘tantric sex’ –doing that to Sting is one of its basic tenets.) Because of that, “Russians” contains the forced rhyme “How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?” Was moon/June/spoon taken? Thanks for answering the burning question of how would nuclear war affect Sting. When I contemplate the end of the world, my first thought is always for the celebrities.
Then there’s the song’s central question of whether the Russians love their children, too. Way to dehumanize an entire people there, Sting. I don’t even remember Ronald Reagan at his most “We being bombing in five minutes” suggesting that the Russians didn’t love their children. Too.