There are few scenes in the history of film that hit me harder than the Super 8 sequence in Paris, Texas.
Rarely do films like this get made. Especially now. Not without a dose of heavy handed social commentary and violence.
That’s not the case with Paris, Texas. It’s subject is simple: one man’s inability to face his problems. All of this juxtaposed against the vast American landscape that’s both empty and crowded…dead and alive. Wim Wenders’ vision of America is embodied by the character Travis, played by the enigmatic Harry Dean Stanton.
The first time I watched this, it was almost like a religious experience. I was 10 or 11 years old and stayed up late while watching cable to see some tities. Fortunately, nothing was on Cinemax so I switched over to HBO. Paris, Texas was playing.
I don’t know why I kept watching it (probably because you see some Aurore Clement side boob), but next thing I know, I was fully engrossed in the story. It was the first movie where, when it ended, I didn’t know what hit me.
It was probably at that moment when it occurred to me: THIS is why people love movies.
Some people hate Paris, Texas. Some say it’s too slow. Some don’t like Travis because he abandoned his family.
I personally like movies that take their time. And if you don’t like Travis’ decisions, it’s not like the movie presents him as mensch.
In fact, Travis…along with his wife Jane…are presented as two VERY troubled people. From the perspective of Travis, he had to leave at the end because he was utterly broken. I would go as far as to say that Travis’ entire existence consists of (unintentionally) ruining people’s lives.
This film is not only about Travis trying to reunite his wife and child (Hunter), but it’s also about ruining the lives of his brother Walt and his wife Anne who took custody of Hunter during his disappearance.
Another heartbreaking scene is when Anne fails to convince Travis and Hunter to return home, and she goes to lie down in Hunter’s bed. Even though Hunter wasn’t her actual son, she was still attached to him. And that’s the last scene Anne is in, never to be mentioned again.
But Wenders’ direction mixes realism with a childlike perspective (which resembles Travis’ emotional state) quite well. So, I think, that permits me to have a pessimistic interpretation of the ending: there was no way that Jane would maintain custody of Hunter, and Hunter would return to Walt and Anne with a better sense of his “real” family, which would likely cause further damage to everyone involved. Meanwhile, Travis, once again, ran away from it all.
Is my interpretation correct? I dunno. But that’s how art works.
So do yourself a favor: stay up late one night and watch Paris, Texas.
“Hey God, God Alliance, the Holy Divers…whatever the fuck you call yourselves…come get your boy!” I radioed to the new energy source on radar.
Yah jammed the transmission. “Captain, you have fucked me over for the last time,” he said over the intercom. “You will never escape me. I’ll chase you around the moons of Nibia and around the Antares Maelstrom and around perdition’s flames before I give you up!”
“Suck my limp dick!” I replied.
The energy source pursuing Yah was gaining on him. And with his final act, Yah tail whipped the rear of the Sagan, causing the ship to spin out of control.
“Fire the braking thrusters!” I ordered Valdez.
“Thrusters are having no effect!”
I radioed down to engineering. “Nia, more power to the brakes!”
“Sir,” she replied, “breaking thrusters were destroyed in the last hit! There’s a coolant leak in engineering. I’m diverting power to both the lift and main thrusters. That will stop the spinning, but we will be unable to stop in forward motion!”
“Captain, we’re hurdling towards a massive object ahead. 50,000km and closing,” Dr. Jackass said.
“Valdez! Give it some gas!” I yelled.
Valdez floored it. We were seconds away from crashing into a large meteor in front of us. The Sagan got caught in the object’s orbit and we spun around it a few times until we broke free.
The ship was now on a straight path, but we were still traveling at light speed. “We dodged that bullet,” The Doctor said, “but it’s only a matter of time before we collide with another object!”
I called back down to engineering. “Nia, can you stop the engines?”
“Not at this speed sir!” she replied. “And with our coolant depleted, I am unable to ramp them down. We will continue to increase speed until the engines burn out, but there will be no way of stopping the ship!”
We were now traveling at 1.5 times the speed of light and increasing. It was the fastest that humanity had ever achieved. But it was going to cost the lives of my crew.
Valdez and Jackass looked to me for answers. I had none.
I went over the intercom.
“Attention crew of the Sagan,”I said, “it has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your captain. All of you are fine officers. You have achieved only what others have dreamt. Let’s just hope history never forgets the name: The USV Carl Sagan.”
I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes. Vibration began increasing.
Then there was a miracle.
“Sir!” Valdez yelled. “Speed is decreasing!”
I opened my eyes. The universe was no longer speeding past us. Finally, the Sagan reached a full stop.
“What the hell happened?” I asked.
There was a voice behind me. “I stopped this piece of shit from flying apart, that’s what happened,” it said.
I turned around and there was a Jack Lemmon-looking asshole dressed in white robes standing on the bridge.
“Who are you?” I said to the strange man.
“You’re God?! I thought Yah was God!”
“No moron! Yah’s that damn Deceiver fella mentioned in that book of yours, the uhh…,” God started snapping his fingers to jog his memory.
“The Bible?” I said
“The Bible! That’s it! He had this cockamamie idea that he could come to Earth and establish a kingdom for himself or some stupid crap. I dunno. We stopped him and thought that he should be a prisoner to YOU guys because he tortured all of you for so long. Clearly that didn’t work out. So now we’re gonna have to find some other way to punish Yah. That guy’s fucking nuts!”
“So are you the ONLY God?”
“I’m the only one NAMED God, if that’s what you mean. But no, there’s a lot more like me.”
“What do you guys DO?”
“Hey! You stay out of our affairs and we’ll stay out of yours PAL!”
“But Earth needs your help.”
“Let me tell you something: no they don’t. You think that because we’re “gods” that we don’t know what it’s like to be you guys? Guess what? We were like you humans at one time. Humanity can climb out of this mess and come back stronger than ever. You know what? I believe in YOU. How do you like that irony?”
“Can you at least help the Ishnarians?”
“Yeah yeah, I’ll go back to Ishnar. I’m used to cleaning up Yah’s shit.”
“I have just one more favor to ask.”
“What do you want now?”
“Can you send us back to Earth? The ship’s kinda broken.”
“Look, I’m not allowed to break the laws of time. Earth’s kinda a shithole right now. Don’t worry though, there’s still people there but they’re all living underground. How bout I put you back in your hibernation chambers and by the time you reach Earth, radiation levels will be back to normal. Sound like a deal?”
“Alright, sweet dreams.” Then God snapped his fingers again.
Many decades later…
The Sagan was orbiting Earth. Tranquility Bay was abandoned and uninhabitable. I made the decision to land on the surface.
“Radiation levels have stabilized, Captain,” Dr. Jackass said.
“Thank you Doctor.” From the bridge, I looked out through the view screen, down to the big blue marble below. “Should we attempt communication?” I asked.
“There doesn’t appear to be any technology to receive it,” the Doctor replied.
“We really are back to the stone ages then,” I said. “I’ll be down in engineering.”
I met with Commander Mwangi at her station. “How’s the landing gear?” I asked.
“All systems are functioning normally, sir,” she replied. But she wouldn’t look at me.
“Is everything alright Commander?”
Mwangi stood up from her desk and turned her face towards me. “You took a big gamble Captain,” she said. “You risked the safety of the entire crew.”
“I ain’t apologizing for getting into a stare down with the devil and winning,” I replied.
“We could’ve been killed!”
“I couldn’t allow you to live in sexual slavery!”
Mwangi sucker punched me right in the face. As I stood in a daze, she grabbed my head and kissed me passionately. “You are one stupid, STUPID son of a bitch,” she said, “but I thank you for it.” She rubbed her body against mine as she sidestepped her way back to work.
I had no idea what just happened. But I liked it.
I returned to the bridge and patted Valdez on the shoulder. “I never congratulated you on your pregnancy. Congratulations Commander,” I told her.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Are you ready to raise this child in a brave new world?”
“I never go into space sober,” I told Dr. Jackass.
The USV Carl Sagan departed from Tranquility Bay en route to Tau Ceti. The doctor and myself were doing preparations before addressing the crew.
“I just don’t think introducing yourself to the crew is a good idea when you’re drunk,” the doctor replied.
“I’ll decide what’s best for this mission.”
The two of us got into our dress blues and proceeded to the conference area where the crew was assembled. “Good afternoon,” I said, “I am Captain William Kananga. You may call me Bill. The gentleman standing next to me is Dr. Sergei Jackass. He will serve as the executive, chief medical, and chief science officer of this mission. We are currently en route to Tau Ceti, approximately 4 light years away, which would make this the first interstellar mission outside of the Solar System.”
The crew looked at one another, startled by this revelation.
“The objective of this mission was previously classified, but now it can be told,” I continued. “Space Fleet has received a transmission from a planet orbiting Tau Ceti. The information contained in this transmission is of the most extraordinary nature. In fact, it has the potential to be the most significant finding in human history. There is now considerable evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. So our mission is to initiate first contact with these beings.”
I took a pause for dramatic purposes, then proceeded. “I’m sure you all have had time to meet with one another, but I will do some formal introductions. LT Commander Lauren Valdez is our Chief Pilot. LT Commander Dick Smashhouse, the co-pilot and navigator. Commander Nia Mwangi, Chief Engineer. LT Elizabeth Hanson and LT Arun Patel are also engineers serving under Commander Mwangi. In case you haven’t noticed, serving under my command are six very attractive people of both sexes: three males and three females from all corners of the Earth. This is done for the purposes of genetic diversity should we get stranded on this alien planet. Yes, we might have to fuck one another because this will be a long ass mission. Don’t worry about me though. My dick don’t work. Any questions?”
Commander Smashouse raised his hand. “Yes sir,” he asked, “can the Starship of the Imagination handle a mission of this magnitude? After all, she doesn’t have the best reputation.”
The crew laughed.
“Yes yes, I know about the reputation of the Sagan,” I replied. “But I assure you, with this new design and refit, she is now the finest ship in the Fleet. Anything else?”
Not a hand was raised.
“Then you have your orders. Once we reach the orbit of Jupiter, we will initiate the hibernation phase of this mission. DISMISSED.”
The crew disbursed to their respective stations. I met with Commander Mwangi to discuss the condition of the Sagan. “Centrifugal operations are fully functional,” she said, “our gravity is now comparable to Earth’s.”
“Very good,” I replied. “By the way, the Sagan is a good ship right? I hope I wasn’t blowing smoke up everyone’s ass.“
“Well,” she said and gave a long, uncomfortable pause. “I’ll just say that she can do the job. I’ll have a full report for you in the morning.”
“Thank you Commander. I’ll be in my quarters.”
I sat down at the edge of my bed and cracked open a beer. Dr. Jackass walked in moments later. “You should’ve packed liquor. It’ll last you longer,” he said.
“Are you feeling better now that you’re back in Space?”
“You know doctor, I know that you’re the Chief Medical officer, but I don’t need you to be my psychiatrist.”
“Jesus Bill! I’m just trying to have a conversation!”
“Well I’m still pissed off that Space Fleet has sent us on this wild goose chase. How can we initiate first contact with an alien species while Earth is an absolute dumpster fire?”
“Maybe a perfect world can never be achieved. But we should always pursue a better one.”
“Whatever Dr. Confucius.”
We were then interrupted by Commander Valdez over the intercom. “Sir, you have a subspace message coming in from Admiral Stockdale.”
“Put it through,” I groaned.
I put down the beer and booted up the computer. “To Captain Kananga: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY,” the message read. I tapped on the screen and a video of the Admiral popped up.
“Bill,” the Admiral said, “I regret to inform you that the war in North Africa has taken a turn. All nuclear powers have initiated Mutually Assured Destruction. The number of casualties is yet confirmed. The Fallout from this event will be considerable and all of Space Fleet personnel and equipment have been reassigned to assist in recovery efforts. In essence, Space Fleet is being disbanded. Therefore, this will be the final order from Space Fleet command: DO NOT abort mission. Repeat: DO NOT ABORT MISSION. The planet orbiting Tau Ceti likely has Earth-like conditions. It is advised to begin population initiatives there. Should that fail, use the hibernation chambers for as long as possible until radiation levels on Earth return to normal. This is a process that might take centuries. It is also advisable to not inform the crew of this development until after reaching Tau Ceti. It has been a pleasure serving with you Bill. Farewell.”
To avoid alienating my audience with discussions on politics that are completely boring and academic, I’ve decided to make a return to fiction.
Once again, I will challenge myself by writing in a genre that I’ve never done before. This time HARD science fiction (if you know what I mean 😉) a la Arthur C. Clarke, albeit in first person because that’s the only way I know how to write.
And instead of descending into pure action schlock, as my stories tend to do, I will try to end this one on a hopeful note.
Per usual, I will be winging it and make no guarantees that it will be good.
“Fuck space!” I said to my executive officer while we were docking at Space Station Tranquility Bay orbiting earth. “This will be my last mission, so help me GOD!”
“You said that 5 missions ago, Bill,” the XO replied. “Personally, I love it out here. It truly is a never ending frontier.”
“Speak for yourself, Jackass!”
Dr. Sergei Jackass and I served together for 15 years. I was a military man. He was trained astrophysicist from some dump of a university in east Europe. We came from two different worlds, but together we made one hell of a team.
After our ship, the USV Jim Varney, completed docking maneuvers, Dr. Jackass and I were ordered to meet with Admiral Stockdale for debriefing.
“Captain Kananga, I trust that your mission was a success,” the Admiral said.
“Yes sir,” I replied, “the two years studying the black hole around Uranus was money well spent.”
“We gathered all the sufficient data sir,” Dr. Jackass interjected.
“Good. You men will have a fortnight’s rest and then report USV Carl Sagan for your next mission.”
“Wait a minute, sir,” I said, “with all due respect, there’s a reason why the Sagan is called the Starship of the Imagination: because your imagination is the only thing that works on that piece of shit. If you want to send me into deep space in that thing, then you can have my resignation.”
“Captain Kananga, I understand that you want to be on the front lines in the war in North Africa, but this is important. We need you out here.”
“What can be more important than fighting for peace and democracy?”
“Because this information is classified, I was going to wait until you reported to the Sagan. But I will tell you now. We have received a strange transmission from a planet orbiting Tau Ceti.”
“Admiral,” I said, “I’ve been on one end of the Solar System to the other, and let me tell ya: there ain’t no aliens.”
“Space Fleet Command disagrees. STRONGLY,” the Admiral replied, “take a look at this report.”
The Admiral handed me a folder filled with charts and graphs I didn’t understand. “You know I can’t read this shit,” I said, “I’m a soldier, not a mathematician.”
Dr. Jackass took the paperwork and was stunned. “My god,” he said, “Captain, this is for real this time.”
I paused and rubbed my face. “Tau Ceti is over four light years away,” I said, “there’s no way the Sagan could make that kind of journey.”
“The Sagan has been updated and outfitted with all the necessary technology for interstellar travel,” the Admiral added. “We need you Captain. Damn it Bill. We need you. BADLY.”
The Admiral extended his hand.
“Okay Admiral,” I said as I shook his hand, “one more mission.”
I celebrated my birthday while on leave. I was somberly drinking myself into oblivion when Dr. Jackass stopped by my London flat.
“Doctor, I don’t want to be lectured,” I said.
“All I said was ‘happy birthday.’”
“With all the heavy interstellar objects that we’ve spent so much time around, we’ve aged so much slower than people on Earth. I’m the same age as my son now! Nobody told me that was gonna happen!”
“Is this about not being able to fight in the war?”
I took another drink. “I don’t know doc,” I said. “I feel like I’ve let so much time on Earth pass. This planet’s gone to shit and I’ve been wasting time flying around space doing nothing about it. The resources dedicated to Space Fleet could have been redirected to fight this war. I feel useless. Old.”
The doctor poured himself a glass of Irish Whiskey. “Captain, I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye,” he said, “but the exploration of space is Earth’s destiny. War is a machine of humanity’s past. It’s time to put childish things away and build a future.”
“Dr. Jackass, you’re an idealist. I’m a realist. We don’t live in the future. We live in the present. And presently I’m drunk as shit, depressed, and want to kill people.”
“You’re too short sighted.”
“No, I see the universe for what it is: a vast empty wasteland, void of any meaning or God. And if there is a God, he has to answer for creating this shitty planet. I swear.”
All the political ideologues claim they want to protect free speech. Well now’s the time to put their money where their mouth is.
Twitter’s a dumpster fire.
So allow me to introduce you to new kind of free speech platform: Bitcher.
Clearly I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet. Nor have I set up a website. Any Big Tech billionaire can take (or steal, if you prefer) this idea.
But here’s the general concept:
-For every Bitch (equivalent to a “Tweet”), there is NO character MAXIMUM. Only a character MINIMUM (which would greatly exceed the character maximum on Twitter). The idea being that participants MUST present a well reasoned Bitch. If any poster tries to cheat the system by circumventing the character minimum (i.e by stringing together random words and letters, or by typing something like “penis penis penis,” etc) then that Bitch will be flagged and removed and the poster will be suspended for a brief period.
-Each Bitch must have at least ONE hyperlink to an external source that is relevant to its subject. To submit a reply, the poster MUST click on the link. Replies don’t have to provide links, but must meet the character minimum.
-If a reply also presents an external link that’s relevant to the subject, the OP MUST respond within a given timeframe (ex: 48 hours). If there are an excessive amount of replies that fit this criteria, a minimum amount of replies from the OP will be set (ex: 5). Failure from the OP to reply will result in a temporary suspension.
-Name calling and obscene language ARE permitted. (Terroristic threatening and harassment are not)
-It will be highly encouraged on the platform to belittle and name call any politico on Twitter that has yet to join Bitcher (within the bounds of reason, of course). If they are interested in free speech, then they should have the courage to join Bitcher.
-It is my belief that the format of Twitter encourages snark, sarcasm, dunking, and just general stupidity with its character limitations. By setting a high character MINIMUM, hopefully this will minimize the effectiveness of those acts by FORCING the participant to engage thoroughly.
You can blame Putin for my absence. I’ve been distracted by Twitterverse’s brain rot due to America not being (directly) implicated in an international crisis.
I mean, what’s the world coming to? I thought America was supposed to be responsible for ALL the global fuck ups.
Anyway, recent events have reminded me that you should never trust someone that gets paid to express political opinions. Spoiler Alert: they’re full of shit and need to be ostracized from civil society.
So anyways, WWIII could happen. Check back with you later.