Thursday, March 19, 2009
TREADING WATER AGAIN. The only appropriate word right now is 'surreal.' The U.S. Treasury Department is an empty office building, the congress is having an epileptic fit about 0.01 percent of their own multi-trillion-dollar bank heist, and the president -- when he isn't attacking capitalism as a sinister Republican conspiracy -- is making campaign appearances on the Tonight Show and filling out brackets (whatever they are) for the NCAA basketball tournament. March Madness indeed.
Who is it exactly who expects us to believe that the AIG bonuses are the only money that's been wasted in the obscene orgy of government spending the malignantly destructive Obama administration has visited on the American people in the past two months? The congress that had no problem larding up an already grossly prodigal budget with $9 billion worth of special interest earmarks is righteously indignant about $165 million in bonuses they specifically authorized in their own legislation? The greed that's a necessary credential in the parasites who levy taxes is a mortal sin in the private sector that actually creates jobs and wealth. I get it. I can't wait for the federal legislation that bans bonuses and regulates salaries in the rest of corporate America. I guess the good news is that given the breakneck speed of Obama's legislative agenda, that bill will be on his desk in another three weeks.
And what are conservatives doing to stand up for our nation and our way of life? The eggheads are writing careful, measured essays on topics like "epistemological modesty," while the mere politicians whose job it it is to represent our interests are lining up in the same AIG gangbang that makes the Democrats so repulsively hypocritical to watch that even the braindead lib Shepard Smith is outraged about it. As I said. Surreal.
Anybody else feel like forgetting March altogether and waitng for this perfect storm of idiocy to exhaust itself before we pay it any more attention? If you like college basketball, you're welcome to that as your consolation. But some of you are just as sick of spinnaker pants as we are of leftwing balloonheads. For them, I have a very modest diversion to offer.
Yes, it is possible to avoid basketball and American Idol and the next Obamessiah press conference. I can offer you what amounts to a secret television series that will soothe you and calm you down. Here you go. Twelve hours of surcease.
Jesse Stone: Stone Cold
Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise
Jesse Stone: Night Passage
Jesse Stone: Sea Change
I'm sure some of you already know about the Jesse Stone movies, but if you don't, take a chance and rent them from Netflix or Blockbuster. I know they're not for every taste and younger viewers in particular may find them somewhat too deliberately paced. But that's what makes them therapeutic at a time when all hell is breaking loose and the pace of our public life is revving up to stark insanity.
Jesse Stone is a small town police chief played with quiet dignity by Tom Selleck. The charm of these movies is subtle but strong. Stone is flawed yet unsentimentally wise, believably principled, and most of all a man, though not in any stereotypical macho way. His first life was as a Los Angeles cop. His marriage soured, he drank too much, and he lost everything he cared about. The movies deal with his second life in a small Massachusetts town, where he lives alone with his dog, a bottle of scotch he rations to himself between late-night calls from the shallow ex-wife he's still in love with, and the job he takes as seriously as good men always do. The reason he's not a loser is that he knows exactly who he is and if he is in some ways sad, he's not sorrowful or lost. He understands that his wounds enable him to care more deeply about other people, even if they regard him as remote and just a little dumb. A younger girlfirend informs that he's the simplest person she's ever known -- not entirely a compliment -- and subsequently asks him if he's ever killed anyone. He answers, "Yes."
"Do you want to tell me about it?"
But she persists and he tells her about a man with a machete and the physical sense of fear. Then the shooting part. She wants to know if he couldn't have wounded the man, shot him in the leg. Stone tells her, matter-of-factly, "You always shoot to kill. It's not like the movies. There's no time. You aim for the center of the body and hope you hit it."
Then she observes, "Maybe that's what being a cop brings out in a man."
And he replies, "Maybe it's that I'm a cop because I am that kind of man."
That's really the essence of the series. Stone knows that life is a life-and-death situation, and he possesses a sense of duty and the bravery of a man who knows his capabilities without the bravado of ego. The plots have everything to do with character and just enough action and danger to create suspense, but the best moments have to do with Stone's minimalist methods for effecting justice. He can't be bullied, but he almost never raises his voice. There's a scene where the town council querulously importunes him to allocate his small police force their way, and he tersely refuses. They remind him that they have the power to fire him. He tells them, "You do. But you can't tell me what to do."
The Massachusetts setting -- a spare hilly town and Stone's lonely rented house on the waterfront -- reinforces both the ordinariness of life and the beauty of the ongoing tension between loss and life. In other words, it's hauntingly real.
That's why I'm recommending this right now. The writing is fine, the supporting cast routinely excellent, and Selleck seems completely at home in his part. If your appraisal of him dates back to the noise and over-the-top teevee-ness of Magnum P.I., please put it aside. There's a gentleness about him, and a steely core, that 's been noted here before (scroll for Quigley Down Under), and this ongoing series of movies is the best thing he's ever done.
He has a stolid golden retriever for a companion. The eyes are limpid and knowing. You can imagine your blood pressure subsiding just by having this dog around. That's what these movies do. (Here's a trailer featuring both Selleck and the Golden. Don't pay any attention to the other bang-bang trailers. These aren't rapid-fire procedurals.) Give them a chance and I think you'll feel better for it. You might even make it through the middle of April without stroking out.