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09/03/2004 Archived Entry: "F911 Part One"

It is difficult to know why the Bad Gas site is so fascinating. Perhaps my response is akin to the natural tendency of people to slow down on the freeway and glance at a car wreck off to the side. Perhaps it is due to the novelty of finding -- in the midst of our ultra PC world -- a site determined to offend everyone and to do so with no remorse. I posted Bad Gas to the ifeminists.net Bulletin Board because of an article I stumbled across on "Doing the Lynddie" -- and Lynddie English has been a topic of discussion there. What's the Lynddie?, you ask. -- "Across the globe, camera-toting mischief-makers are snapping shots of themselves mimicking the finger-pointing pose of alleged Iraqi prison scandal perpetrator Lynndie England." Bad Gas was mentioned as having a faux-Lynddie archive. And, indeed, it does.

Brad and I finally saw "Fahrenheit 911' on Tuesday night.

The man amazed me by wandering into my workroom to announce that our local drive-in was showing a double bill that night: The Bourne Supremacy and F911. (I'd given up on the possibility of F911 being played at a theatre closer than Toronto, which is a little farther than my curiosity prompted me to drive.) I *love* our local drive-in. Part of my visceral enjoyment comes from memories of Saturday nights in childhood when my cash-strapped parents would pile me and my brother into the back seat of the car in our 'jammies' and go to a drive-in that didn't charge for children. I don't remember making it all the way through the features -- inevitably I would be watching the 2nd feature, which was more adult (read, no cartoons or talking animals) and, then, my father would be carrying me from the backseat into the house and to bed. I do remember being allowed to eat all the popcorn I wanted; only years later did I realize it was one of those cheap but effective parent tricks that kept my brother and me quiet.

Needless to say, with Brad's self-satisfied announcement, I immediately started making double-feature drive-in preparations: popcorn, rice cakes, several cans of soda and a thermos of coffee, fast food coupons to facilitate the process of grabbing "take-in" burgers, pillows and blankets (it got down into the high 40s), preparing the garage for the dogs...and, lastly, a nap. Our local drive-in is wonderful. It is not a throw-back to the '50s -- that is, it is not one of those squeeky new, flashing neon retro reconstructions that are pandering to the Boomers' nostalgia for childhood and innocent times. It is a '50s drive-in that has been maintained well enough to feel and smell exactly like the one I remember. Clean but with peeling paint, a play area for children and dogs, your basic artery-clogging concession food (e.g. we bought an entire pepperoni & cheese pizza for $6 because the concession stand had overpurchased and was looking to simply make back their money)... The only difference -- and it is a postiive one -- is that the audio now comes in over the FM radio. (My father used to test the clunky sound boxes that hung in the driver's window and we would always move a few times because the sound quality on the first few was terrible. Heck, the quality never really improved that much despite moving.)

So...F911. Too much has been written about the "documentary" for me to give a detailed political analysis. It would be redundant and boring. Instead, I'll offer personal reactions. First of all, it was very well done. It wasn't a documentary but a piece of propaganda...but, for all of that, it was informative and powerful. There was information of which I was unaware even tho' I have been closely following the slide of the US into a police state since 911. Some aspects were questionable, to say the least. For example, the distinct impression rendered that Iraq was a happy place before the invasion of Coalition forces. Whatever your view of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I don't think the place was "happy, happy, joy, joy" under Saddam. But Moore made several very smart choices in how to present the material. For example, he hammers away at how the Bush administration is/was betraying the sons and daughters it sends/sent overseas to kill or be maimed in a cause that doesn't protect America from harm. That's one of the most commendable and smartest aspects of the current antiwar movement -- it is not spitting upon the soldiers but acting as their advocate. The segments on the mother from Flynt Michigan who lost her son are heart wrenching, and probably the most politically compelling. Other segments, the ones that included graphic footage of the horrors being rained down on Iraqi civilians, were impossible for me to watch. I turned away and listened to the narrative...but I could not watch.

(As a sidenote: I sometimes think myself a coward because I *do* turn away from the worst of the images of war or rape... Something inside me says I should be willing to stare these realities straight in the face. Then another part of me kicks into the internal debate and I argue with myself along the following lines... You have seen such images before -- in fact, many times -- and, at this point, all they do is upset you, lingering with you like a feeling of being literally sick for days. Looking at them again will not make you more anti-war or more willing to donate your time/money to causes. All it will do is make you feel that awful sickness inside and that, arguably, will make you less effective. I don't know where the balance is in this debate but I achieved it Tuesday night by looking away...which is another indication of the movie's power.)

I have many more observations about F911 but I'll hold them until tomorrow as the time allotted for blogging has run out.

Best to all,

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