Last weekend Chuck, my daughter, and I had the whole house to ourselves as the other half of the family was out gallivanting at a conference and rubbing elbows with famous people. We had an important agenda to accomplish:
This past week I watched all seven episodes of HBO’s Generation Kill. In ways it reminded me of Band of Brothers and Tour of Duty. If you haven’t seen it, Generation Kill follows the 1st Recon Marines as they make their way to Baghdad, and along for the ride is a reporter from Rolling Stone which has similarities with Barry Pepper’s character in We Were Soldiers.
There were a few things that stuck out to me based on the genre and what I’ve heard after the fact seeing this is based on actual events.
those in charge were apparently idiots
there was a vast gap between the regular Marines and the reservists (remember the National Guard units in First Blood?)
some soldiers seemed normal while others seemed unhinged or a little crazy
the officers were kind of split between good and bad
While I wish there were more than just seven episodes, the show did end well before jumping the shark. It was also really moving at the end when the company watched the edited video put together by one of their own who had been shooting footage on a handheld camera. It summed up what had happened during their time pretty well and foreshadowed what was to come.
So is their a recipe for war movies/shows in this vein? I really started to notice some similarities where most of the officers seem to be slightly incompetent and the NCOs are the experts. There’s also one, maybe two, officers who are really good and respected by the enlisted men. Is this an HBO thing?
I must say it was great to see the Master Sgt offer to rile the men up with more grooming violations if morale became low. At first I wasn’t quite sure how to take his antagonistic approach to the men because he seemed like a nice guy at heart.
Here’s a good interview of John Goodman by Jimmy Fallon. It is hard to believe Jimmy just got around to watching one of the best American films to come out of the 90s. It’s great to hear him laugh about seeing the funeral scene for the first time. I’d totally watch the sequel he pitched.
As a parent it can be hard at times figuring out what’s no longer appropriate for “family time” as you transition from being that cool adult to someone with a little kid. When Chuck was a baby she would often be fussy and fidgety for Liz, but would lie completely still for hours with me watching whatever I happened to be interested in on TV. Since my asthma has been bad for much longer than Chuck has been alive, that means many, many hours of her early life were spent watching TV and movies with me.
At first I’d just watch whatever knowing she wasn’t paying attention, couldn’t exactly see what all was going on, and didn’t really understand anything. I think it was around 6 months or so that we quit letting her sit in on R-rated stuff and definitely avoided all violence and anything sexual. Eventually we started watching “kid stuff” with her but are fortunate she never got into some of the more annoying bits of children’s programming.
These days her favorite things on TV include:
Star Wars (the original trilogy)
Power Rangers Samurai
Lord of the Rings
And anything with Alton Brown
Yes, that’s correct – my kid loves Alton Brown. We lucked out being he’s one of the coolest food personalities on TV, is a great educator, and does an amazing job with Good Eats and Iron Chef America. Last night when it was getting close to bedtime Chuck asked…
Could I sit in the living room for a while and watch cooking shows? Alton Brown, let’s watch Alton Brown. Oh, and I’m hungry. I need a snack. I didn’t brush my teeth yet because I wanted to drink some juice. Do we have any juice left?
So I fired up an episode of Good Eats from season 14 and got her some cheese and crackers from the kitchen with juice. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and have tried to include Chuck whenever I’m preparing something. It’s kind of cool that she’s so interested in food. She loves olives, extremely sharp cheddar and asparagus, yet still refuses to eat eggs and mashed potatoes. Every time Alton makes something Chuck wants to know whats going on, loves answering his rhetorical questions and always asks me, “Can we make that some day? I want to try that. It looks good.” Occasionally the questions can become fast and furious and after a long day of questioning it’s a little tiring. I just keep reminding myself – hey, at least she’s not obsessed with the latest Disney kid personality or Miley Cyrus.
At the end of Season 2 Half Sack is killed while trying to prevent the Irish from kidnapping Abel and Gemma has been setup by Agent Stahl. If you think things really heated up between Seasons 1 and 2, just wait until you watch Season 3.
This season can really be broken into two halves. One part takes place in Charming and the other in Ireland. I’d say there’s probably equal amount of excitement taking place in both locations as the older Hale takes a stronger hand at his conniving politics after his brother’s, Deputy Hale, tragic death in a drive-by shooting. There is friction between between the Sons and other gangs as usual and the DEA, led by Agent Stahl, is still trying to take the down the club. In Ireland the Sons are trying to track down Abel, Jax’s son, and end up discovering a whole other mess of corruption and deceit among their Irish brothers and the IRA.
One notable performance to point out is Hal Holbrook as Nate Madock, Gemma’s father. We see him in a few episodes towards the beginning of the season as Gemma’s mother is dead and she’s checking in on him to make sure he’s OK. His mind is going he mistakes Tig as an intruder during Gemma’s visit.
After most of the Sons decide to skip bail and head across the pond there’s a noticeable change in the theme music. On one hand this is nice to signify the location change, but I really prefer the original arrangement. SAMCRO teams up with their counterparts in Ireland who happen to include one of the Original 9. They seem to hit roadblocks in every direction though trying to find out where Abel is and who has him.
Back in the states the Sons have worked out their differences with the Mayans and team up to stop a rogue Mayan patchover who is single-handedly attempting to take down both clubs. At one point he even kidnaps Tara in an attempt to turn the Sons against the Mayans. Cooler heads prevail and all ends well…mostly well.
If you already disliked Agent Stahl you’re really going to hate her in Season 3. She’s about as bad as dirty cops can be as she manipulates both business and personal relationships to her advantage. She forces Jax to make a deal with her and then rats him out to the club in the end. We all know what happens to snitches, but you’ll have to watch to get the details. I can’t give everything away here.
While in Ireland we discover some important background history about Jax, Gemma and John Teller. In some ways it almost plays out like a soap opera. History really seems to be repeating itself as Jax is becoming his father and Tara slowly begins to be the new Gemma. This will be much more apparent after Season 4.
Piney is still my favorite character as he stands on the sidelines and offers words of wisdom when necessary. It’s interesting to see Jax and Opie really come into their own as the young blood in the club. We get a few more prospects and Happy continues to be…well, happy. If you have yet to watch Season 4, be prepared for the Sons to come home and start focusing on their domestic troubles again. There’s never a dull moment.
It’s easy to believe a lot of what you see on TV and in the movie theater until you come across something with which you have personal experience and say, “what the….” I first remember one of these instances sitting in the living room watching who knows what when a woman on TV was giving birth and my mother thought it was ridiculous. There was probably a lot of unnecessary sweat, screaming and flailing going on there. I just remember my mom thinking it was over-dramatized. I think the same can be said for asthma. At least 25 million Americans are diagnosed with asthma (“Asthma at a Glance,” National Center for Environmental Health, U.S. CDC, 1999) and COPD is currently the 4th leading cause of death in the US (Mannino and Kin, 2006). You’d think people would be more informed about lung disease and what it looks like. This also makes me wonder who is consulting with these writers, directors and producers as to exactly how actors should act in these scenes. To be fair, some portrayals are supposed to be over the top and exaggerated, but how is the average, free-breathing, entertainment-connoisseur supposed to know that?
Portrayals I find inaccurate, annoying, and what have you:
I have often seen asthma exaggerated, blown out of proportion, and not treated seriously in films and on TV. Children with asthma are often picked on, made fun of, ridiculed and seen as less than normal. They can’t go outside, participate in gym class, breathe normally, talk normally or do what they want in life. Their disease, condition, symptoms or even medication are used at plot points or MacGuffins, instead of just being a part of who they are. Even in the show Lost, the character Shannon has pretty convincing asthma, but it’s really just a ploy to find her medicine than anything else.
Mikey in The Goonies (1985) – way too many puffs on an OTC inhaler and later tosses it when he no longer wants it. Apparently I’m not the only one who recognizes this:
Uncle Junior in The Sopranos (1999) – OSA and his CPAP, can no one help him get his mask on properly?
Bobby Elvis in Sons of Anarchy (2008) – constantly trying to buy those “crazy expensive” albuterol inhalers, not to mention your average rescue inhaler has roughly 200 puffs in it.
Bobby – That dealer, she got that albuterol?
Piney – Probably.
Bobby – Tiki’s going through three inhalers a week…
Stevie on Malcolm in the Middle (2000) – overplayed wheezing and shortness of breath. Sorry about the poor quality of videos here. The first is a scene from an episode and the second is the actor, Craig Traylor, leaving a phone message as “Stevie.”
Morgan in Signs (2002) – suffers from an asthma attack without medicine while his father tries to help him through it.
Thomas in Black Hawk Down (2001) – soldier uses his inhaler before heading out on a mission, and yes I know there are questions to be asked about his active duty status.
Bob from Up in the Air (2009) – man loses his job and wants to know how he’ll care for his daughter without insurance. I really dig J.K. Simmons’ righteous anger here.
Barry in Sidekicks (1992) – teen with severe asthma manages his symptoms through a regulated exercise program.
So what’s wrong with asthma in pop culture?
I’m fairly certain there is no lack of education and information available about asthma. The problem is people seeking it out or stumbling across it. Unfortunately the main way people learn about things that aren’t in their face is through TV and film where asthmatics are generally depicted as:
Why asthma? Why did you select any life-threatening condition or the character, Carl Wheezer? Is asthma funnier than heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, or AIDS?
There is nothing funny about growing up with asthma, a condition that robs children of oxygen, limits physical activity, and requires responsible use of inhaled medications and avoidance of allergens and irritants.
Was the character intended to educate children and the public about asthma?
If so, your efforts backfired.
Jimmy Neutron perpetuates the painful myth that children with asthma are emotional wimps that tend to overuse inhaled medications when faced with excitement.
It may not seem like a big deal, but these cartoons are both educating children on their limits and expected lifestyle AS WELL AS educating non-asthmatics on the appropriate response and treatment of those suffering with the disease. This includes other children, parents, teachers, family members and anyone else an asthmatic might deal with on a daily basis or run into only once. If this still doesn’t seem like a big deal, I’d like to point out several articles where two children and an adult find themselves in need of emergency care.
Personally I think we need to encourage children to make goals and support them in achieving those goals. I was told as a child I could do whatever I wanted and played football even though I suffer from severe asthma and severe summer/fall allergies. Instead of creating ridiculous, debilitating characters why not celebrate our fellow asthmatics who have proved they accomplish their goals. Asthma obviously didn’t keep Martin Scorsese from winning 111 film awards including an Oscar for Best Director on Hugo (2011). Here’s a short list of a few other famous people you might recognize.
John F Kennedy
Louis “Studs” Terkel
Ludwig von Beethoven
Peter the Great
Rev Jesse Jackson
William Tecumseh Sherman
So what can we do? I’ve decided to start blogging more to share my story and experiences. In just the past few weeks I’ve already been contacted by friends, family and strangers saying they’ve benefited from or learned something from things I’ve shared. I’m committed to be on the lookout for fellow asthmatics in need of assistance out in the world and taking action when necessary. I’m also looking to point out and share good examples of asthma in pop culture that will further asthma education around the world. In fact, there’s some buzz about a new movie, Asthma (????), directed by Jake Hoffman and starring Krysten Ritter from Breaking Bad.
If Sons of Anarchy: Season 1 was about introducing characters and getting a sense of background, season 2 was definitely about hard times and revenge. After setting the scene and giving us a good idea of what SAMCRO is going through, a new player comes to town and tries to rule with an iron fist. Did we mention this fist is connected to a suit and tie?
Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins are the two new boys in town. I always have to laugh a little when I see Rollins on TV. If you’re not sure who he is, Rollins fronted punk bands Black Flag and the Rollins Band. While having never seen nor talked to Henry, I get the idea he considers himself a badass. This tends to creep up in every role I’ve seen him act. He also plays the part in other aspects of his public life in his books, gig as a radio DJ, and speaking engagements. Adam Arkin, son of Alan Arkin, has always done well in stuff I’ve seen. I loved his recent role in the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, and in the TV show Life. He does a great job playing both businessman and scumbag.
Two other actors I have to say I’ve been impressed with are Charlie Hunnam and Ryan Hurst. These two guys are playing very different and original roles from what I’ve seen the do. I often see men and women playing “type cast” roles over and over. While this can be good for a while, I wish I could see what they’re really capable of. Neither of these actors disappoint.
When I think of Hunnam, two roles immediately come to mind: Undeclared(A Judd Apatow masterpiece that followed up Freaks and Geeks) and Nicholas Nickleby. I’ve never actually seen the 2nd, but he’s on the cover and it’s one of those things I’m just aware of. In Undeclared Hunnam plays the foreign college student whom all the girls fawn over due to his accent. He was no where near a bad boy, more like an Abercrombie boy. Chalire did start to get more “thug” with his role in Green Street Hooligans, a film about soccer/football fans in the UK, but it was still no where near Jax Teller, Vice President of SAMCRO. This guy is the quintessential American outlaw, even though he’s from England. I was almost surprised to spot him the first time I caught an episode playing at the gym. I practically took a double-take. I never would have guessed Hunnam could grow a bear and start riding a motorcycle like he owned it, let alone handle a gun. I might actually be afraid of this dude in real life.
Now to Hurst – here’s a guy who’s best known in my mind for playing a high school football player in Remember the Titans and the bumbling idiot in The Ladykillers (2004). Here’s another guy who changed his whole demeanor for a role. Besides the fact he’s already huge and really could kick your ass, Hurst completed modified his look, voice, and person. No more passiveness, no more mister nice guy; I would definitely fear Opie Winston. He’s come a long way from the deaf soldier in Saving Private Ryan, the high school athlete in “Titans,” the timid sergeant in We Were Soldiers, and the idiot trying to pull off a heist in The Ladykillers. I can’t wait to see what roles he takes next.
So plot-wise I said this season was all about hard times and revenge. We meet a few new characters, several die, and others are left dealing with the pieces. You probably know by now biker gangs motorcycle clubs do not rely on the police to take care of them. In one scene a member tells Clay if it had been his wife, there would already be six charters halfway to town by now. Fortunately the club has a good working-relationship with Charming law enforcement. SAMCRO doesn’t take aggression or turf infringement lightly, so if you enjoy a good fight spiced with some Cold War era revenge, this is the season for you.