Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shoot straight, you bastards...

...or your History Lesson For Today!

Harry Morant was an Australian/English soldier and poet who fought for the Crown during the Boer Wars in South Africa in the latter part of the 19th century. For those of you who haven't ever clicked the "Random Article" button in Wikipedia, the "Boer Wars" was a fancy name for one of those routine cans of whoop-ass that Britain was known to quite regularly open up all over the previous settlers of a land they wanted to occupy whenever said peoples had the nuts to raise their hands (guns, clubs, pointy sticks, etc.) collectively and say "Erm...Not to be rude, but...we sort of live here." To which some impossibly mustachioed general (perhaps wearing a monacle, I haven't decided) would then reply "The sun shall never set on the Empire!" Then, a whole lot of better-armed but very polite and well spoken invaders would jump out and yell "Bloody well right!" and then...I don't know, crumpets or something. End result = South Africans kind of have a British accent. And so do Indians. And people from New England (I know, I was surprised, too. I lived there my whole life and just assumed the name was a freak coincedence. You know, like New Coke.)

Anyway, old Harry up there, along with a few buddies, killed a mess of Boer prisoners of war one day, acting on orders from his commanding officer (allegedly). Also, he killed some German guy who happened to witness it. Also, I think some kittens. So, the LDIC (Limey Dudes In Charge, stay with me here, people, I can't take time to explain all my acronyms) arrested Harry and his buddies and held a court martial; which for the British is a tea party where one guy doesn't get biscuits. Skip ahead, and Harry and his accomplices are sentenced to death by firing squad.

It turns out that his commanding officer probably did send a telegram telling his men to, in effect, just kill the living hell out of any Boer officers wearing khaki. Whether or not khaki was the uniform color of high ranking officers or this guy hated the Gap as much as I do (with all of my tiny, black soul) remains a mystery (or not, I may just have skipped that part). And also, the Boers in question may or may not have killed Morant's bestest friend in the whole world, mutilating him horribly (seriously.) Bummer. And, on the day of the execution, "as the afternoon wore on, all the prisoners could clearly hear the sound of coffins being built in the nearby workshop"...Double whammy.

Why bring up this seemingly minor event in British colonial history at all? Because fuck you, I find it interesting. And because Morant eventually became something of a folk hero. In Australia, much as in Ireland, if you get fucked by the British and someone writes it down, the folk hero thing is almost automatic. Then you get a movie made about you. Seriously, it's called Breaker Morant and it got nominated for an Oscar in 1980.

Of course, it turns out it's total bullshit. The transcripts of the court martial mysteriously disappeared from the House of Commons, and most of Morant's story was probably made up so some dude who was supposedly there could sell a bunch of books.

Again, why even bring it up when there are literally THOUSANDS of folk heroes across the world whose stories are probably just as much bullshit? (Hell, even Gandhi was, in reality, kind of a douche.)

Simple answer. Morant's last words as he faced a line of men armed with rifles pointed directly at his center mass:

"Shoot straight, you bastards. Don't make a mess of it."

How bad ass is that?! I'm pretty sure Gandhi's last words were something about really wanting a sandwich. (Actually, Gandhi had probably the most genuine last word ever. According to a witness, after he was shot, Gandhi made a noise like "Uh...." and then collapsed against a wall. You try to say anything sage like after you get shot. See if you can top "Uh...")

The End.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Capo di tutti capi...

I was watching the trailer for The Godfather II game today, and a few things occurred to me. One of these things was that I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this game. The gameplay seems like a refined and tweaked version of the first one, which was almost pitch perfect in the first place. The Godfather was, and is, one of my favorite games on the XBox 360. It's like you're playing the movie which, as all men will tell you, is really all we want in life: to be able to say, in all seriousness, "Never ask me about my business," and then have one of your lackeys close the door all slow and sinister like. AND THAT'S THE END OF THE ARGUMENT! AND YOU WIN! AND IF THEY QUESTION YOU, LUCA BRASI SLEEPS WITH THE FISHES, SEE! (or something like that) Plus, it would rock to look as impressive as Al Pacino in a suit. Well, Al Pacino in a suit in 1972. I love Pacino, but lately, he looks like a pile of old laundry being humped by one of those wrinkly dogs. Hoo-ah!

Another thing that occured to me, through a little roundabout thinking, is that I miss James Gandolfini. I don't lie away thinking about it or anything, but it's sad. Tony Soprano, and by extension, James Gandolfini, is one of the most fascinating characters in modern storytelling. He alternates between Joe Pesci from Goodfellas, Robert DeNiro in The Untouchables and George from Seinfeld many times through the course of an episode, and sometimes through the course of a sentence. And the character wouldn't have been as effective in the hands of another man. (Wow, that last sentence sounded unintentionally molesty. Eh...I stand by it.) And then The Sopranos was over (and the ending was fucking awesome, and if you disagree then you're wrong and should feel terrible), and he went away for awhile. I haven't had nearly enough James Gandolfini in my life lately; Luckily, as IMDB would have it, he's starring in no less than 6 films in the next year and some, and in one of those films he's playing Ernest Fucking Hemingway. (another of those films is called Sexual Healing, but less gloss over that one. He's a hairy, hairy man and the idea of him in a movie called Sexual Healing makes my stomach feel all...sad.)

That's right, Papa Hemingway, the man responsible for the creation of some of the roughest, meanest, bull-fightingest, mysogynistic...um...est men in the history of literature; the man who routinely drank enough liquor befire breakfast to take down a bull elephant, and the man who could have ruled France like the bad ass warrior king they so desperately, desperately need if he didn't think they were too goddamned wussy is going to be immortalized on film by TONY MOTHERFUCKING SOPRANO. That is the manliest thing that has ever happened. EVER. You know that old guy who sells juicers on late night infomercials that once pulled a bus with his teeth from Oakland to Seattle? Yup, manlier than him. The guy on the Discovery Channel with all the tattoos who routinely rams spikes through his face with a hammer? Manlier than him, too. We're talking some superhuman mash-up of Conan the Barbarian, Batman, Keyser Soze and The Rock that's currently wearing John Rambo's headband kind of manly. This Hemingway could slam your head repeatedly in a car door while simultaneously banging the hot neighbor lady AND writing a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. All this while wearing one of those beer helmets. Full of gin. On fire.

The film isn't slated til 2011, but I guarantee you it'll be haunting dreams everywhere this Friday. Watch it...or you're totally gay.

Another, shorter, less ranty thing that occurred to me during all this was that mobsters seem to have cornered the market on bad ass nicknames. Whitey, Lucky, Sammy the Bull, Lefty Guns, Paulie Walnuts, Big Pussy, etc. You don't generally run into a green grocer named Knuckles. Or a tax attorney named Pretty Boy. Let's take this one back for the working man. By the end of the week, I want to have met, at the very least, a mail clerk named The Louisville Slugger and two guys at the Safeway named Machete and The Thumb, respectively. There's your brilliant idea for today. Make it happen.