Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Deadwood, Part 2: Not Just An E.D. Anymore

I really dig on movies, as those close to me know (for those that don't, I own upward of 180 DVDs). I don't think it really comes across in my personality, though. I'm not really the guy who spouts random movie quotes, or says, "This reminds me of a scene from [insert movie here]."

At least I don't think so--please correct me if I'm wrong.

But I do love movies, usually the long ones. I like the long ones usually because there is a higher level of immersion than you'll find in a standard 90 minute film (though, now that I think about it, the Evil Dead movies are a notable exception). By immersion I mean that by watching these movies you absorb more than just the story and the characters, but also the world in which they live their lives. To fall upon a standard cliche, you become "sucked into" the reality of the story so that you're "living it" with the characters more than just watching it.

Films such as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Open Range, The Postman, and Wyatt Earp all accomplish this feat, at least for me they do. And while many (most) people would disagree with these choices as being good films, I think if they could watch these films without any biased opinions they would at least agree with me on their quality of replica reality.

I think that's also why I enjoy a certain brand of video game nowadays; games such as the Metal Gear Solid series and the Way of the Samurai I thought, on the whole, were fantastic games. Maybe they weren't the most action-oriented of games (the latter is much more the case than MGS), but their engrossing environments and stories really drew me in.

I don't think it's needless escapism, either. For those who disagree, I refer them to my post concerning dulce et utile, a term that regular readers of this blog have already impressed their friends and family with by now.

Anyhow, this desire for immersion (the key word of this post) I think is the ultimate (or maybe just the current) manifestation of my innate desire to be something. If I can't be a samurai/cowboy/covert ops agent, then at least I can be with them in their respective forms. And be with them in a way that I can not just follow them around, but actually stop and take a gander at the world that normally rushes by them.

After relinquishing the sharpened devotion of a samurai and the hounded soul of a bluesman, I found my life was blandly devoid of unreachable goals--that is until about a year and a half ago when I rediscovered the Western. Interestingly enough, it turns out that this growth was organic, spawning directly out of my love of ancient Japanese military culture.

When I was young I was in martial arts and did fairly well at it, progressing far enough to become formidable against those who dared to pick a fight with me (which only happened twice that I can recall). As a practitioner of this activity, I was also exposed to the art's history. This really marks the first time I became interested in a timeline other than those of my favorite comic books.

So, through this I found out about the Samurai, through which I fell in love with the beauty and art of the samurai sword. After much work, I was even exposed to a little sword training before I stopped training due to a combination of an educational agreement with my parents and a waning desire to learn due to the realization that this particular martial arts school was teaching the tradition as a sport instead of something much more serious--a lifestyle, I guess. I wanted to do this for real (keep in mind, this was the beginning, and as a result, the most hardcore of my "wanting to be a samurai" days). Luckily no photos exist of me brandishing blades in full-on karate attire, for no matter the coolness of the activity, I still looked like a goober.

In the midst of this obsession I was by chance introduced to what would become my favorite film ever--Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. No, not this yojimbo. The flick is in every single way an embodiment of the term bad-ass. Apparently, even other filmmakers agreed with my sentiment, including an Italian one named Sergio Leone. George Lucas is an admitted Kurosawa thief as well.

Leone loved the movie so much that he wanted to make the movie instead of just wishing that he had done so. So, in an attempt to shuffle theft beneath originality, he rewrote the script as a Western and was released as the immortal Per un pugno di dollari, eventually released Stateside as A Fistful of Dollars. This movie not only brought the Yojimbo story to a broad American audience, but it also indoctrinated a young actor into stardom, a dude from San Francisco named Clint Eastwood.

Hearing that it was a remake of Yojimbo, I eagerly sought out Fistful and enjoyed it, shelving it in my brain. It wasn't for many years when I visited the Western genre again, but when I did, it attracted me in the same way Ancient Japan had--I completely immersed myself in the history. What was better, the "Old West" was a little more tangible than Ancient Japan, and in order to completely understand it I wouldn't have to learn a new language.

Just like Ancient Japan, though, I became fascinated with the period's weaponry, most notably the classic revolver. When I was a prospective samurai, I detested all weapons involving gunpowder, thinking them barbaric, unfair, clumsy, and uncivilized. To be fair, the use of firearms are all those things, what makes it different, and more specifically, appropriate, for the United States' unsettled West was the fact that it was an uncivilized place sparsely populated with people that lived without the codes and respect the samurai held most dear.

But I also found, after some convincing, that the firearms from about 1860-c.1890 to contain as much beauty and craftsmanship as the swords of the samurai had during their heyday. In fact, I think the Colt 1860 Army is the most beautiful handgun ever molded. So, again, just like my fascination with Samurai culture, I became the most ardent student of a period's weapons of choice. So much so that even my go-to old west firearm experts have expressed growing concern that my knowledge is evening out with theirs.

As I dove deeper into this newfound addiction I did something that I hadn't done until this point: I recognized it and accepted it. Though this doesn't mean much, I feel I have control over this river of enthusiasm and am able to focus it when I need to toward creative and non-creative endeavors. Most importantly, I think it has allowed me to truly immerse when a good Western reveals itself. One has done so in the name of HBO's nearly perfect television show, Deadwood.

This is a show that breathes and does everything I wish for. What's more is that, on a level, it's history, too. Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen, Sol Star, Charlie Utter, Jane Cannary, and E.B. Farnum were all real people. Naturally, there are plenty of fictional characters, and the show in now way is trying to emulate a daily re-creation of life in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Deadwood is just a cap on the amalgam of emotions and attitudes I hold toward my interests throughout my life. So, as a response to a comment made regarding Part I of this rant, a statment made by a generally good person, I say the following: it doesn't matter whether the show is good or bad (though it is amazingly good), all that matters to me is that Deadwood shows me the life I instinctively want to live, even though I have a firm grasp on my escapist sentiments this time around, the urge is still there. And because of Deadwood and the recognition of this tendency in my personality, I have noticed an irreversible forward momentum in my life that I was only pretending to search for before.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Frolicking Tumbleweeds in the B.O.B.

Sorry for the immense gap in legitimate posts, but (as is the usual excuse concerning internet thingies) my schedule has become a little packed with various extracurricular appointments (because we all know that writing for the B.O.B. is my full-time job).

I do have a new post in the works, though. And I'll be (hopefully) posting it by the end of this week, or, at the latest, the beginning of next.

Keep a good thought,

-Dan

Here are some cool links that I waste my time with.