“are you too close to this?”

Despite what some would have you believe, this is not a universally applicable question.

We watched The Dark Knight this evening, because all six rentable copies of Batman Begins were checked out and overdue, and because listening to the latest, TDKR-centric podcast of Comedy Film Nerds made us want to go watch the third movie again, which we couldn’t do. During the recording (the Side B half of the most recent posting, which is composed entirely of spoilers, and so can talk more freely/deeply about aspects of the movie glossed over in spoiler-free reviews), Graham Elwood is pushing his reverence of TDKR and forgiving it of its trespasses, citing Christopher Nolan’s skilled grasp of the PTSD-wracked personality of Batman as yet more proof that he really knows what he’s doing. At which point guest podcaster Mike Schmidt bursts in with “Now wait a minute, are you to close to this?” More quietly, Chris Mancini adds, “Yeah, as soon as you said PTSD I thought that.”

I pressed pause here and did a cursory search to see if Elwood himself had suffered PTSD or if it was just a cause he is passionate about. As far as I can determine it’s the latter—not that it’s my business to know; I just figured that if he was so unabashedly open about the illness itself, he’d have used himself as an example. I don’t think he has, but he cites a comedy tour he did overseas, and soldiers and relatives of soldiers he has talked to, as having made a huge impact on him. So I went back and pushed play and listened to the rest of the podcast.

Even if he had experienced PTSD himself, though, I still grind my teeth at the idea of being “too close” to have your opinions count. Of there being the concept of “too close,” when it comes to what you are sitting there feeling in response to something.

Do realize that I’m broadening this out here. I understand that if your job is to dispense dispassionate analysis of some exterior force or situation, some emotional distance is required. I rather doubt reacting to movies (art forms designed to elicit an emotional response!) is one such instance, though I can see how Schmidt’s frustration with Elwood’s kneejerk forgiveness toward any technical shortcomings in the film would lead him to make the accustation. But that doesn’t make it a justified accusation. The hell do you mean, “are you too close to this?” Elwood goes on to say that it’s not just PTSD and Nolan’s treatment of it that makes him so loyal to the film; it’s the years of crappy Batman movies, his fierce adoration of the comics, the revelatory awesomeness of Nolan’s take on Batman, etc. etc. But even if he himself had suffered PTSD I don’t understand how his thoughts on the film would be subpar, tainted in some way, in comparison with someone who hadn’t had PTSD and thus could claim that, I guess they would say, “distance.”

We’re all tainted, people.

We’re all too close to something. We’ve all felt things too akin to this character, or been in fucked-up situations too close to this book or that movie, or had to make a decision one way or the other, and picked the wrong one, and then seen our choices reflected in fiction. And we reacted to it, probably more strongly than those who lacked the connection. And that doesn’t rule our reactions out as invalid—the strength of your feelings should in no way make them moot. What kind of sense does that make?

There are degrees of acceptability here, of course. If you’re a judge and a defendant looks like the guy who beat you up after school every Friday for ten years, maybe you shouldn’t be handling this case. Or if you’re a lawyer. Or a cop. Or a doctor, faced with having to treat your daughter’s rapist. We can’t all be Atticus Finch, even if we know we should be, and if you’re going to handle the man roughly because you’re “too close” to shit he has done in the past, maybe you should hand him over to another doctor.

But reactions to art? Film? Books? Speeches? Mandates? News? How exactly is someone expressly not in a position of authority re: these things capable of being “too close” to them?**

If you used the internet last year, you knew about this. You probably had lots of friends and relatives who posted it. If they were “close” to someone who died, or to somewhere people died, they might have been posting the bungled quote in order to look like the kind, beneficent people they wanted others to think they were. Or to convince themselves they were. Or maybe they’re just saints. I don’t know.

But those without the closeness—I fumed, seeing them do it. A relative of mine decided, like who knows how many other good little christians trying to look like extra good little christians, posted it to her Facebook page, accompanied by a slew of “likes” and self-righteous condemnation of the people who were glad bin Laden was dead. For various reasons, this relative of mine was the only person I saw posting this on Facebook, so she bore the brunt of my reaction, however unwittingly. I never mentioned anything about it, online or in person, since. This, though, is what I would have said to her:

So you’ve decided to paint yourself as a good samaritan in bright neon colors and plaster it across the internet, to make sure all your friends know. Good for you. I don’t suppose they’d think so much of you if they heard all the racist homophobic bullshit you spout when you’re drunk, but then I don’t know your friends, so maybe they would approve. Who knows. But while you’re busy congratulating yourself on your peacefulness and oneness with the world you spend every day that isn’t today complaining about on Facebook, let me explain something. You lost your father when _______. He was taken from you, but because you’re a good little believer when it suits you to be, you never felt an actual person was taking him away from you, robbing you of him without right or reason, out of nowhere. You never felt that. You felt shock and pain that I’m sure you still feel, but there was never anyone to blame. Never any perpetrator. Maybe you even had angry venting sessions with some sort of religious representative, but you swallow the dogma and you’re not treating the concept of God as a physical person who took your dad away. Natural causes, and all that. Working in mysterious ways.

But if you had felt, from the time you heard of a pre-meditated disaster until the time the line in front of the phones cleared, and someone lent you money, and you got on the phone with someone who could tell you they were standing in front of your dad and he was still alive—if you felt, during all that time, that someone took him from you—you would have been a better person than I, if you still wanted to blindly repost some fashionable pronouncement of scandalized goodwill, when the person you thought had done this thing was dead.

I lost no one. By chance, the very few people I care about were elsewhere. And I know that my minutes-long fear that things were otherwise in no way compares to the feelings of those who actually lost loved ones. I know that, implicitly, I have much less reason to be angry than they. Much less reason to react at all. But for those thirty minutes of not-knowing, I felt that I had been robbed. That someone could have—might have done so already, or might have caused the chain of events that lead to blocked passageways, flickering lights, and gas leaks that could even at that very moment be quenching out life—taken away someone I held dear. As a deliberate act. And yes, I was angry. And I stayed angry as so many of his friends died and he didn’t, and he entered a depression, and watched the news into the wee hours of the morning, and tried to eat himself into another shape and another person so as, I assume, to escape who he was—someone who couldn’t go after the perpetrators anymore—and what he was—alive.

I stayed angry. Clearly. To some extent.

And if you think you who never felt murder had been done to you, never felt that someone with eyes and hands and feet to continue to walk over the earth with had removed the very possibility of you ever seeing your loved one again—if you can tell me I should just be a nicer, more christian person, or that I should turn the other cheek, or welcome the hardships or revel in the mysterious ways or whatever the hell you tell people who have been hurt, robbed, by another human being—you are either a beautifully compassionate person, or a real bitch.

And I know what you think about anyone who’s gay or, god forbid, not white, so I’m kind of leaning toward the latter.

So, yeah, I don’t understand this “too close” business. You’ve got to be “too” close to something, or you wouldn’t be living right. Someone or something has to matter to you. And if it matters you’re going to feel something about it. And if feeling something about it makes your thoughts invalid, well, what the hell else are people for? Who else is going to do the feeling?

**I am aware that by the end of this I am no longer speaking of reacting to fiction or art forms. I guess what I’m saying is that, barring my holding a position of authority where my actions, influenced by my strong emotions, might lay untoward claim on someone’s life or person, why should there be a “too close” zone of opinion? Who gets to draw those lines?



1.) This morning Robin Young tweeted: 

Taking a crop o kids to dark knight, 12 yr old’s been quiet,just burst into tears “but how will I protect everyone?” 

and I thought, goddammit kid, I was you.

2.) We had a puke pink armchair I fell asleep in, in front of the news on 9/11, writing over and over in a notebook a prayer (despite having abandoned religion as deluding and discriminatory, years ago) for my teacher’s husband, whom I thought was in the Air Force and unaccounted for. It was in my lap, 22 pages’ worth, when my mom woke me and prodded me up to bed. She must have seen it. She never mentioned it. Because she has probably forgotten I keep this blog, she will never know how grateful I am for her discretion.

3.) The academics embracing this as proof of their theories on this, that and the other anger me almost as much as those trying to politicize it. This is not your goddamn peer-review paper. These are dead people.

4.) I came home after a day of constantly refreshing the news search in another tab at work, drank two glasses of wine and woke up and it was 8AM today. My body has the luxury of shielding me from horror.

Theirs didn’t.

meanwhile back at the ranch

I’m just always there. I never hear about it after the fact. I don’t spend all day waiting for things to crop up on the news. I just happen to be there when they do. This occurs to more people now than ever, I know. But even pre-internet and facebook and twitter. I remember watching the breaking coverage of Princess Diana’s crash, late at night, with my parents after we had finished some movie. I remember my biology teacher coming ashen-faced back into the room during Columbine, and when she didn’t yell at us we knew something had happened. I remember borrowing quarters from the girl at the next pay phone on 9/11, watching my math teacher call her husband in tears, listening to people making plans to drive by the wreckage after school, asking my mother how was my father, where was he. My childhood neighborhood sprouted black ribbons like wildflowers after the VA Tech shootings. A co-worker pointed me to the advance of the tsunami in Japan as it happened—hadn’t I lived there? The fall of the Berlin wall—being held in front of the TV, and told to remember. The USS Cole and frantic satellite phonecalls. The DC sniper. The LA earthquake. I’m always there, watching it as it happens.

But I was not aware of this.

I walked through a light mist and the most beautiful night we’ve had all summer and exulted in the movie I’d just seen, as the blood drained out of little kids somewhere else. I laid claim to the pain of the innocent—reminding myself, as I so often do, of those who said the people in DC deserved it, were asking for it because of where and who they were, whereas the people in NYC were the real innocents—while someone rushed a six-year-old with a bullet wound to a hospital. I thought with relish of the movies to come, the future laid out for an actor I respected more, while people huddled on dew-soaked lawns in shock, waiting to be interviewed by police. I wrote as though I had more of a right to speak for “the people” than others, when some of “the people” were dying, regardless of words or posing or grand claims of righteous umbrage.

I know my remorse makes no more of a difference than my ignorance. I neither own guns, nor think anyone should, nor have I voted for anyone who does.


I feel bad.

I will leave up my silly self-aggrandizing post, not because it matters to anyone else, but as a reminder to myself of what a self-absorbed twat I can be.


“Are the gods not just?”

“Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?”

quickly, before bed necessary pre-work, post midnight showing

If you’re googling batman and haven’t seen it, you should know better, but just in case: 


1.) That kiss should not have happened. Are you fucking kidding me? There is BOMB ABOUT TO GO OFF. The man is ON A TIMELINE HERE. He needs to GO.

2.) It was minor, but I do resent the hints of bisexuality that crop up around characters who either persist as villains or who are “redeemed” by a heterosexual relationship that causes them to lose their villainhood later. It’s insensitive and dumb. There should be both a.) hints of bisexuality around people who end up with a same-sex partner, and b.) hints of bisexuality around people who were never villains. 

( 4.) But the truck driven by Bain’s henchmen did break, when some of our intrepid heroes stopped in front of it. It could have just run them over. That seemed important. They looked out for their much-touted common man at least that much.  )

5.) Hans Zimmer ftw.

3.) God I love a movie that portrays—at great length—these charismatic self-absorbed claimants of anarchistic inheritance, who purport to be of and for the people—to give a shit about them—and who are really only there to rape and pillage and blow stuff up for their own selfish enjoyment. We know so well the [well-trodden] tale of those who currently sit in power, who allow that power to corrupt and who revel in its corruption and do nothing to stop it. We know better than to trust them, or at least we tell ourselves we do. But we are so easily charmed by any bright-eyed charlatan who glides onto the stage using We The People as his marquee. The revelation that these people are still only people, and are as bloodthirsty and fallible as those at the top—as anyone, really—is deeply, deeply satisfying to me. I have written before of the fury that fills me when I am surrounded for too long by those who think throwing bricks into post offices will make their college tuition cheaper, and the unbridled destruction wreaked by Bain’s followers—“This is what you wanted”—is me shaking my fist at them in a grand I told you so. I don’t care that it’s petty of me. Is this what you want, people? You who depend on the vast produce delivery system to live in your cities devoid of greenery, on the entertainment industrial complex for your witty shows, on the infrastructure of the internet for your porn? Is this what you want? See how it ends.

something disappointing about it

I don’t understand this vaunting of the militaristic in 1Q84. Sure, for the first fifty pages every descriptor is militaristic—resulting in some ridiculous and misplaced comparisons between boring metro life and people starving and getting shot to death in a war—and carry more or less negative connotations. But this going on and on about what a badass Tamaru is—“He used to belong to a Self-Defense Force Ranger unit. Those people have it pounded into them to carry out whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission, and to do it instantly, without the slightest hesitation.” Cripe, Murakami, are you writing some lame apocalyptic anime series here, where the brawny man of few words saves the day in an act of self sacrifice that only his harsh training could have prepared him to perform?


There’s something disappointing about a grown man still thinking toughness would have gotten him through anything. A lesson he should have learned and never did. It’s more disappointing than even his persistent dirty old man obsession with girl-on-girl sex. That, at least, is somewhat unavoidable. I’ve read Michel Houellebecq; I know that to some extent, it is and always will be about your dick. Fine. But there’s a difference between it being about the actual dick your biology gave you, and about the metaphysical dick with which you want to pound your manliness into everyone around you.

That, at least, you should have the self-awareness to outgrow.

more modern jp lit shoutouts in 1Q84

This won’t be of note if you haven’t spent the last five years trying to get inside the heads of Meiji writers, but:


Tengo sighed. “Our prospects are not very bright, I would say. But there’s no turning back now, is there?”

“Even if we could turn back, we’d probably never end up where we started,” the Professor said.


Aaaaand boom. A cultural moment that lasted three decades, right there. The dissertation I would’ve written, right there. Simplified.

a radiance of objects

“For herself, she looks forward to light, to slanted rays of it, pools overflowing with it, a radiance of objects, sudden bursts and slow waves, the kind of light she remembers from her childhood on the Great Plains.”